Following two days of selection camp—contested by nearly 4 and a half gymnasts—the US men have named their team for the World Championships of Exhaustion, set for next month in Japan. Making the team were Yul Moldauer, Alec Yoder, Stephen Nedoroscik, Donnell Whittenburg, Alex Diab, and Brody Malone.
The only two athletes who competed at the trial but did not make the team were Cameron Bock and Akash Modi, who will default to non-traveling alternate status.
Since we’re all far too burnt out from the controversy of the various Olympic team selections, I found it very considerate that the US men’s program selected an utterly non-controversial team here, at least given the collection of athletes who appeared at camp.
Moldauer qualified for the squad automatically by winning the two-day all-around standings, defeating Bock (the only other person who attempted the all-around) by a bit under a point and a half. Moldauer had been trailing after day 1’s human tragedy of gymnastics where everyone fell 16 times on every single routine and Bock won with a 76, but both athletes pulled it back on the second day, with Moldauer’s 83.250 enough to give himself the win.
Also qualifying automatically were Alec Yoder and Stephen Nedoroscik through their pommel horse performances. Any athlete automatically made the team if he achieved a one-day score on any event that would have won a medal at the Olympics (yes, we all acknowledge that these scores were in no way comparable to Olympic scoring), and Yoder’s 15s both days and Nedoroscik’s 15.5 on the second day both achieved that.
In the burnt out minefield of fatigue that was this selection camp, the excellence of Yoder and Nedoroscik’s pommel horse work on both days stood out.
A fourth automatic spot, and the surprise of the group, went to Donnell Whittenburg thanks to his day 2 vault performance. The first day was disastrous, with Whittenburg falling on floor for 12.000 and then going on to miss both of his vaults. If he had repeated that performance on the second day, I imagine Bock would have made the team in his place. Instead, Whittenburg elected to focus exclusively on vault for day 2 and hit both his Ri Se Gwang (6.0 D) and his Roche (5.2 D) for an average of 14.800, which was just enough to get him on the team automatically.
Alex Diab only barely missed automatic qualification with his very strong rings performances, particularly on day 2 when he stuck his dismount, so it was a no-brainer that he would also be selected by the committee for one of the two remaining non-automatic spots.
Brody Malone competed only high bar here, hitting on the first day and falling on the second, but as he broke 14 on the first day and, you know, spent the whole summer earning his spot on every team, his selection to round out the six seemed a similar no-brainer.
Ultimately, Bock missed out because he wasn’t able to defeat Moldauer in the all-around and didn’t show any events that would be competitive to make a final at an individual worlds. As for Modi, he competed only pommel horse and scored 12s both days, though even with his best horse routines there wouldn’t really have been an avenue to select him for that event from this camp since only three people can compete on each event at worlds. If you have Moldauer doing the AA and Yoder and Nedoroscik…the positions are filled.
The only real issue at this selection camp—aside from Dry Erase Marker-Gate from day 2, never forget—concerned who was not in attendance. Quite controversially, the limited group of 12 competitors that was named for this camp following Olympic Trials did not include Allan Bower, Paul Juda, or Riley Loos, despite Bower being an Olympic alternate and Juda and Loos representing the future of the US men’s program and the kind of athlete that might greatly benefit from the experience of this post-Olympic worlds. So things have been weird since June. (Of 1976.)
This scenario was rendered yet sillier given the withdrawal of several athletes who originally qualified for this event—Sam Mikulak, Shane Wiskus, Brandon Briones, and Gage Dyer. The idea that there was no mechanism to replace them with the next athletes in line is pretty self-sabotaging and unhelpful and led to a camp where just 8 athletes were competing for 6 spots, even when there were other athletes who could at least have been competitive for a worlds position who weren’t invited. We end up in a situation where we watch Riley Loos show better gymnastics at the Koper World Cup than a solid half of the routines we saw at this camp. Hrm.