Sam Mikulak competing on rings during men's qualification at the 2019 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on Oct. 7, 2019 in Stuttgart, Germany.
An uneven day for the U.S. men’s gymnastics team nonetheless ended up roughly as hoped for when all the scores were tallied for the qualification round Monday at the FIG World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.
Despite multiple falls, the U.S. advanced to the team finals, Yul Moldauer and Sam Mikulak advanced to the all-around finals, and Mikulak will also compete in the high bar final.
Meanwhile, the team’s placement also secured its berth for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Achieving those results wasn’t pretty, though.
Across the six rotations, the U.S. registered six falls, most notably four by team leader Mikulak. And after finishing fourth at the 2018 world championships, the U.S. was seventh after qualifying. Although scores reset before each final, the U.S. has a long way to go to reach the podium at worlds for the first time since winning a bronze medal in 2014. Team USA scored 250.359 points in qualifying; leaders Russia, China and Japan all scored at least 258.
Now, the team, and particularly Mikulak, must put Monday’s performance behind them and turn their focus toward the rest of the week, starting with Wednesday’s team final.
The 26-year-old Mikulak, a two-time Olympian, is Team USA’s most accomplished gymnast and finished fifth in the all-around at last year’s world championships. Should he hit all six routines in Friday’s all-around final, he should still be a contender to reach the podium for the first time in the competition.
On Monday, Mikulak began the day with uncharacteristic falls, two on floor exercise and one on pommel horse, and he later fell again on the parallel bars. That left the veteran gymnast going into the final rotation looking like he’d finish in third among the U.S. contingent, thus missing out on the all-around final due to the two-per-country rule. Instead, Mikulak hit his best routine of the day on high bar while teammate Akash Modi fell, allowing Mikulak to sneak above him and into position to qualify.
However, he still needed to post one of the 24 best scores in order to claim a spot in the finals, so from there it was a waiting game for several hours as the remaining three subdivisions wrapped up. In the end, Mikulak had the 27th best all-around score but earned the 24th and final spot in the finals due to the two-per-country rule for Russia, China and Ukraine.
Moldauer, meanwhile, qualified for the final with the 11th best all-around score. He finished seventh in the all-around at the 2017 world championships.
Mikulak, who qualified for four apparatus finals last year, will compete this year in just one: high bar, on Sunday. Last year he won a bronze in the event, marking his first individual medal at the world championships.
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic Movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009, including the gymnastics national championships and Olympic trials since 2011, on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.