TORONTO -- For the U.S. men’s gymnasts competing at the 2015 Pan American Games, hearing the results of the team competition was certainly worth the wait.
After competing in the first of two subdivisions, the United States finished with 267.650 points, then waited nearly five hours to hear its fate Saturday night in Toronto.
Led by 2012 Olympian Sam Mikulak, Team USA took home Pan Am gold for the first time in 20 years. The medal also marked the first team gold for the U.S. of the 2015 Games. Brazil earned silver and Colombia claimed bronze.
Mikulak finished second among all the competitors with an 89.850 and Donnell Whittenburg was fourth with an 87.700, qualifying both of them to Monday’s individual all-around final.
Team USA began the day on floor exercise as Mikulak started off strong with a 15.000. His new routine included a 2.5 to double front and he closed with a triple full.
“I feel confident in my training,” Mikulak said. “Coming out here, podium training was a little rough and so I hadn’t done a hit set out here. Now that I got it done, got that adrenaline in my system, it kind of eases my mind for the upcoming events.”
He would also go on to claim the highest U.S. score on the parallel bars with a giant Suarez and a double front dismount.
Whittenburg took home the highest U.S. scores on both rings and vault. The reigning Pan Am champion, Paul Ruggeri, used a double-double dismount to earn him a 15.400 and take the highest score on the high bar.
“We had a few struggles here and there, but that happens in gymnastics,” Whittenburg said. “We’re just trying to stay as consistent as possible and calm throughout the rest of the competition.”
“We were hitting our routines,” Mikulak said. “It wasn’t the perfect day, but we’ve bonded well and molded well together. We’ve done well together, we’ll play off each other’s mistakes and have a lot of fun in the process.”
After Team USA completed its rotation solidly in first place, the team was forced to wait nearly five hours to find out its fate on the podium.
“I could have had better routines,” Mikulak said, “but I’m stoked that we were all able to come together this time and put on this performance. Now we just have to sit and wait for one whole rotation to see how we place against everyone else.”
At the end of the night, they did occupy that top spot and, to boot, four U.S. men qualified to 11 spots in the apparatus finals to be held Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We work so hard in the gym and it finally pays off, you finally get those sweet little moments and it makes everything seem like so much more,” Ruggeri said. “To be up there with my brothers has been such a pleasure.”
“We all had a lot of fun today,” Mikulak said, “which is what being a part of Team USA is all about.”
Sarah Higgins is the digital media coordinator at the U.S. Olympic Committee. Previously, she covered collegiate athletics at NCAA.com in Atlanta and the London 2012 Olympic Games with the USOC from Colorado Springs, Colorado.