Sam Mikulak competes in the men's rings at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics Championships on Oct. 29, 2018 in Doha, Qatar.
Strong performances mixed with a few untimely errors left the U.S. men in fourth place at the end of the team finals as the gymnastics world championships continued Monday in Doha, Qatar.
With a young team, including three world championships rookies among the five gymnasts, the U.S. was considered a dark horse, rather than a favorite, for the podium, and that’s how the meet played out. The U.S. scored 252.994 points, following China (256.634), Russia (256.585) and Japan (253.744).
The result means Team USA will have to wait until next year’s world championships to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, as only the top three from this year’s event move on. Nine more teams can qualify for Tokyo based on results at next year’s world championships.
Still, the placement was the best for the U.S. men since finishing third at the 2014 world championships. They were fifth at the 2015 worlds and 2016 Olympics, and there was no team competition at least year’s worlds.
The Americans got off to a rough start when anchor Sam Mikulak—the only Olympian on Team USA, and the only gymnast to compete on all six events—fell on pommel horse. The team remained in last place through the first two rotations before three big scores on vault bumped the U.S. up to fourth at the midway point, with all three gymnasts scoring in the 14s: Yul Moldauer (14.633) Colin Van Wicklen (14.733) and Mikulak (14.366).
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Going into the second half of the meet, the Americans were less than a point out of third place.
However, Akash Modi struggled to open the parallel bars, and despite stronger performances from Moldauer and Mikulak the Americans remained in fourth but dropped to more than 1.5 points out of the medals.
On high bar, Van Wicklen, Modi and Mikulak each had clean performances, but lacking difficulty only Mikulak scored above 13.6, with the two-time Olympian scoring at 14.5, leaving the U.S. in fourth place, 2.617 points off the podium.
Closing things out on floor exercise, all three U.S. men put up strong routines, with Van Wicklen scoring 14.033, Moldauer at 14.6 and Mikulak at 14.333.
Alec Yoder, who only competed on pommel horse, rounded out the U.S. team.
The competition continues with the women’s team final on Tuesday before moving into individual finals through Saturday. Mikulak and Moldauer will go after the men’s all-around title on Wednesday. Both will also compete in the floor exercise finals on Friday, with Mikulak also in pommel horse finals. Then Mikulak will take part in parallel bars and high bar finals on Saturday.
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009, including the gymnastics national championships and Olympic trials every year since 2011, on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.