The 2016 P&G Men’s Gymnastics Championships wrapped up on Sunday in Hartford, Connecticut, where Sam Mikulak won a fourth consecutive national all-around title and 18 men — the top 13 finishers and five additional athletes selected by a committee — advanced to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
The trials will be held June 23 and 25 in St. Louis, where five gymnasts will be chosen to represent Team USA at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.
Here are seven things we learned from the weekend’s championships, as the 18 men begin to shift their focus to the final stage of the Olympic selection process.
1. No Frontrunners For Automatic Qualification
The U.S. men’s gymnastics picture for the Rio Games is just as muddled as it was heading into Hartford, with 10 gymnasts finishing within five points of the top spot and six different men winning the six event titles, including two co-winners on vault. A gymnast can clinch a spot on Team USA by finishing in the top two in the all-around and top three in three of the six events in the combined results from the championships and trials. But it’s looking more and more likely the team will have to be chosen by committee if nobody from the crowded group can fulfill the aforementioned criteria.
2. Mikulak’s Still On Top
Mikulak cemented himself as the top U.S. contender in the Olympic individual all-around medal chase by winning another national title, effectively erasing any doubters after suffering from both Achilles and ankle injuries over the last year. Although he did not win a single event title, Mikulak finished with top-10 placements on five of six apparatuses for a commanding all-around score of 181.5 points. In doing so, the 23-year-old became the fifth man to win four straight all-around national titles and first since Blaine Wilson in 2000.
3. Don’t Doubt Dalton
Despite battling shoulder problems, Jake Dalton can almost pencil himself in for Rio, too, having finished third in the all-around in Hartford to go along with a top finish in floor exercise and a co-top finish on vault. Dalton, who won the NCAA all-around title in 2012 over Mikulak, was named the 2016 USA Gymnastics Athlete of the Year at the conclusion of the championships.
4. Alternate No More For Chris Brooks?
Chris Brooks, a London 2012 alternate, is not turning over easy in his final push for his first Olympic Games. Driven by a career of “almosts,” his score of 179.85 in Hartford was more than encouraging, and good enough for second place in the all-around competition. Brooks has never finished lower than fifth place at the U.S. championships dating back to 2010, making him one of the most reliable performers in the country. If the 29-year-old, who let out a massive yell upon completing his national title-winning parallel bars routine on Sunday, can up his pommel horse scores in St. Louis, he might just secure himself a ticket to Rio.
5. Longshot For Leyva?
London 2012 Olympic all-around bronze medalist Danell Leyva is on thin ice, having had to advance to the trials as a discretionary selection. He finished in a disappointing 16th place at the championships after several errors, including a fall off the high bar and a step out of bounds on floor exercise, after sustaining hand and leg injuries last month from his dog. He has a history of rallying after poor meets, though, so he’ll have to hope history repeats itself at trials.
6. Boomer Sooner Reigns Supreme
Oklahoma University is a national hotbed for men’s gymnasts, with six former and current members of the Sooners’ men’s gymnastics program advancing to the trials. The group includes current freshman and NCAA all-around champion Yul Moldauer and assistant coach Steven Legendre, along with former Sooners in Brooks, Dalton, Alex Naddour and Kanji Oyama.
7. Meet The Bubble Dwellers
Paul Ruggeri and Marvin Kimble are the definition of bubble dwellers, thanks to respectable, yet by no means dominant, all-around performances in Hartford. The pair finished tied for eighth place, with Ruggeri posting a winning 16.0 on high bar — the top individual event score on the final day of competition — and Kimble putting up a respectable 15.6 on pommel horse, the second highest score on that event throughout the meet. They will have to shine in more than one event, though, if they wish to crack the Rio roster.
Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.