Two-time national gymnastics titlist Sam Mikulak has said his goal is to become a world champion. Mikulak has a way to go before dethroning Japan’s seemingly unstoppable Kohei Uchimura — but at least the American is in good company.
Although some of the world’s top gymnasts gave Uchimura some competition at the 2014 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Nanning, China, the Japanese gymnast showed why he is dubbed the sport’s “king” as he captured his fifth consecutive world all-around gold medal. Uchimura, who was coming off the disappointment of a narrow loss to China in the team competition, finished with 91.965 points for the gold.
Max Whitlock, who got to compete in the all-around after Great Britain teammate Nile Wilson withdrew with a wrist injury, earned the silver medal with 90.473 points, just 1.492 behind Uchimura. Yusuke Tanaka, of Japan, claimed the bronze with a score of 90.449. A notable finisher was Sergio Sasaki Junior. With less than two years until the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games, the Brazilian gymnast placed seventh. He was 10th in London and fifth at the 2013 worlds.
Mikulak, sixth in the all-around at the last world championships, did not have his best competition, most notably when he slipped off the parallel bars for a 13.400 mark. He also went out of bounds on the vault. The 2012 Olympian did, however, have a strong showing in his last event, the pommel horse (14.800), to finish 12th overall with 87.591 points. Mikulak’s best score of the day came on the floor when he earned 15.300 points.
“You can’t just stop and give up after you have a mistake,” Mikulak told USA Gymnastics. “I still had a great time. I hit high bar, floor and a great pommel horse set. To end on horse and hit it strong like that was the biggest takeaway for me.”
The other American in the field, Donnell Whittenburg, who was competing at his first world championships, placed 17th with 86.248 points. Whittenburg slipped on his vault dismount and struggled on the pommel horse. He called it “an honor” to be in the same competition as Uchimura.
“I had a rough night,” Whittenburg said in an interview with USA Gymnastics. “But it’s just great to be out here with all the best guys in the world … just to gather that experience.
“It’s definitely an eye-opener of what possibilities I can achieve for myself and what I have to look forward to in the upcoming years so I’m definitely proud of myself.”
Mikulak and Whittenburg helped Team USA earn a bronze medal in the team competition earlier this week. The women’s all-around finals are set for Friday, and defending world champion Simone Biles and reigning world silver medalist Kyla Ross will represent Team USA in the all-around finals.
Amy Rosewater is a freelance writer and editor for TeamUSA.org. She has covered five Olympic Games and her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today.