NANJING, China -- Alec Yoder made a statement to the world Tuesday night when he earned bronze in the men’s gymnastics all-around final at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games. That statement? Don’t count out Yoder.
Yoder had a rough night Sunday when he finished sixth in qualification, 3.850 points away from first place and 2.725 points from third. His performance in qualification even included a fall on high bar.
Two nights later it would be his high bar performance that would save him. Yoder bounced from fifth to fourth, then down to sixth and back up to fifth during the first five rotations of the final. Going into the last rotation, high bar, he appeared to be out of medal contention. That is, until he performed the highest scoring high bar routine of the night and earned a 13.850. Once the remaining competitors had performed, Yoder ended up moving up two spots and finished third with a total of 82.800, just 0.250 from silver. Great Britain’s Giarnni Regini-Moran won gold while Nikita Nagornyy of Russia took silver.
“I always dreamed of this,” Yoder said after receiving his bronze medal. “I just wanted to hit my routines, and I did that and wound up with this. I’m so stoked.”
Yoder stuck his landings on rings, parallel bars and high bar, proving he is capable of delivering under pressure. And he will have two more chances to prove that when he competes in event finals on pommel horse (Aug. 23) and parallel bars (Aug. 24).
Pommel horse is considered Yoder’s strongest event, which bodes well for him considering it has traditionally been a weak event for many U.S. men.
“I think that I’ve been training really hard,” Yoder said on his pension for pommel horse. “Everyone’s been training hard but it’s a pretty hard event. Just putting the work in back home and coming here and showing it off, it’s awesome.”
He won the pommel horse gold medal in the junior (age 15-16) division at the 2013 P&G Gymnastics Championships and more recently found success on the international level, taking gold on the apparatus at both the 2014 Junior Pan American Gymnastics Championships in March and the junior competition of the 2014 Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships in April.
Joining Yoder on the U.S. team for the Pacific Rim Championships was Chris Brooks, an alternate on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team, who Yoder names as one of his gymnastics idols. Yoder hopes to join the likes of Brooks and his other role models, 2012 Olympians Jake Dalton and Sam Mikulak, on the next Olympic Team in 2016, and then 2020.
“I’m absolutely hoping for both,” Yoder said. “I’m training every day for it and we’ll just see how it goes, but this bronze medal is definitely a great start.”
Before he looks toward Rio or Tokyo, Yoder will continue to enjoy his time in Nanjing, China, where he is taking full advantage of the Culture and Education Program offered at the Games.
“I’ve participated in the cooking class twice, including once this morning,” he said. “Being here has seriously been the time of my life. I have loved just walking around the different tents and experiencing different cultures, meeting a lot of different people.”