In just over one week’s time, you might find yourself watching the men compete at US nationals, simultaneously developing the sudden need to have extreme, loud, and uncompromising opinions about who should go to worlds based on the exactly three routines you just watched.
It’s an important part of the gymnerd experience.
To supplement these extreme opinions, here’s a little refresher on the major players and what their whole deals are right now.
We’ll start with Sam Mikulak (you know him!), who will be returning to his traditional status as all-around favorite at nationals this year. Last year, Mikulak was attempting to come back from his Achilles tendon transforming into the tentacles of a sadistic octopus and therefore competed only two events at nationals, horse and high bar. He was nonetheless named to the worlds team to compete high bar, but not without a little Simone-Morgan about whether he had truly earned a spot on the team with his performances in the lead-up to worlds.
This year, there should be no such controversy. Mikulak is back to competing the all-around and reminding everyone that the reason he gets named to every team every year is that he’s better than the other choices, especially on key events to the US team.
There’s always the worry about inconsistency, because Sam will fall sometimes, but his all-around scoring potential and strengths are far too valuable to the US team to be compromised by falls here and there. Mikulak went 86 at both days of Winter Cup to win the competition in a breeze, and would have recorded another 86 at the national qualifier had he chosen to compete vault. An 86 is the score this quad (all necessary caveats about domestic scoring included).
Best placed to challenge Mikulak will be exemplar of all that is good and right in men’s gymnastics, Yul Moldauer. Moldauer put himself directly in the mix with his American Cup score of 85.964, and seeing him win his second straight national championship would not be a surprise at all. The playbook on Moldauer is the same as it has been. He doesn’t have the huge, event-final type D scores, but it doesn’t matter so much because of his execution.