ST. LOUIS – After lifetimes of dedication, countless hours of training in the gym and four nights of grueling competition, the 2016 U.S. Olympic Men’s Gymnastics Team was selected as the Olympic Trials came to an end Saturday night at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis.
The five members of Team USA are Chris Brooks, Jake Dalton, Sam Mikulak, Alex Naddour, and John Orozco.
The team ranges in age from 23 to 29 and includes three Olympians who competed four years ago in London.
Leading the pack is Mikulak, who earlier this month became the first man to win four straight all-around national titles in 16 years. Mikulak also had the top score of combined four-day Olympic Trials process (two from P&G Gymnastics Championships, June 3-5 in Hartford, Connecticut, and two from Olympic Trials in St. Louis).
Joining him is Brooks, who has had a career of “almosts” and finally makes his Olympic debut at age 29; Dalton, a national team veteran who’s won two world medals; Naddour, an anomaly on the U.S. team who excels at pommel horse, the team’s weakest event; and Orozco, who struggled to make his second Olympic team after injury and personal hardship.
Get to know the five athletes who will represent Team USA in Rio as it goes for its first Olympic team gold medal in 32 years:
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Olympic experience: None
World championship experience: Chris Brooks has competed at two world championships (2010, 2015) and, while he has never medaled, he made the high bar final both times. In 2014, he was an alternate on the U.S. team that won bronze.
Where he can contribute in Rio: Brooks will be one of Team USA’s biggest assets on both high bar and parallel bars, and could contend for an individual medal on both. He is also one of the team’s best vaulters.
On making the Olympic team at age 29: "Old guy’s still got it! Even old, hurt guy’s still got it. If I could do it, anybody can do it. ... The body feels old, absolutely; but the mind’s still sharp! I surround myself with young, awesome people, so I feel young."
Hometown: Sparks, Nev.
Age: 25 (will turn 26 on Aug. 19 in Rio)
Olympic experience: London 2012 Olympic Games, fifth in team event and fifth in floor exercise final
World championship experience: Jake Dalton has competed at four world championships, beginning in 2009. His highlights include a silver medal won on floor in 2013, bronze won on vault in 2014, and two team bronzes (2011, 2014). He also finished fourth on floor in 2014.
Where he can contribute in Rio: Dalton will be counted on to put up Team USA’s highest score on floor in the team competition, and potentially earn an individual medal in the event, having made four worlds and one Olympic final in his career. He is also the country’s strongest on vault and second-best of the Olympic team on still rings, and could be called to compete on high bar.
On the strength of the team chosen: "It’s incredible. We have such a strong team here, not only with gymnastics, but with heart and talent and everything combined, and experience – that’s another thing. We’ve all been to London; some as alternates, some on the team. I think experience is going to be a big beneficial factor in this Olympic competition."
Hometown: Newport Beach, Calif.
Olympic experience: London 2012 Olympic Games, fifth in team event and fifth in vault final
World championship experience: Sam Mikulak is a four-time all-around national champion, but has not had the same luck at the world championships. His worlds debut was his most successful showing, when he finished sixth in the all-around and just one spot off the podium in the high bar final. The following year, he was 12th in all-around and did not make any event finals, but he did help Team USA to a bronze medal. He missed the 2015 worlds due to an ankle injury.
Where he can contribute in Rio: Mikulak can do it all, and he will be a favorite to make the all-around final, just as he has at his two world championships and at the 2015 Pan American Games, where he became the first U.S. man to win gold in 28 years. He can help the country out on floor, parallel bars, pommel horse, still rings, vault and maybe even high bar in the team competition.
On the moment he found out he made the team: "National team was all in there, along with the coaches. Committee was in the other room. You could pretty much hear everyone’s heart beating in that room. Committee walked in. They were quick with it, luckily, and said, ‘Congratulations to everyone, this was a difficult decision, but we’re going to let the numbers speak for themselves, and this is the team.’ They just listed it off. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh! This is all happening so fast! Last time it wasn’t like this at all.' They had to rush for TV and stuff, but man, it was fantastic."
Hometown: Gilbert, Ariz.
Olympic experience: None
World championship experience: Competing on four world championship teams, Naddour has earned two medals, both bronzed in the team event (2011, 2014). Surprising for a U.S. man, he has also made two pommel horse finals, in 2014 and ’15.
Where he can contribute in Rio: Naddour will be Team USA’s prized possession when it comes to pommel horse, notoriously the U.S. men’s weakest event. He is also likely to play a role when it comes to floor exercise and still rings, and could step up on vault.
Message to his daughter, 4-month-old Lilah: “I wanted to show her you could accomplish anything you put your mind to, and I was able to do that. This has been my goal since I was a kid. … It hasn’t just been four years, it’s been my whole life – training and wanting it and wanting it. Having a day like I did today is everything I wanted, and more."
Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.
Olympic experience: London 2012 Olympic Games, fifth in team event and eighth in all-around
World championship experience: John Orozco has competed at three world championship and won as many medals, all bronze. He owns an individual bronze on parallel bars from 2013, as well as two team bronzes (2011 and 2014).
Where he can contribute in Rio: Orozco’s strongest event at the Olympic Trials and P&G Gymnastics Championships was high bar, where he finished second. He will likely be used for parallel bars, on which he has a world medal, with potential for pommel horse.
On awaiting the decision: "I was the last name that they called, and I thought I was going to stop breathing. My heart was racing."