MILWAUKEE – Sam Mikulak wasn’t at his best, but the two-time Olympian was good enough.
Mikulak finished first on the parallel bars and floor exercise, and no lower than fourth in the other events to win the 2020 American Cup on Saturday at the Fiserv Forum.
Coming off a bout with the flu, Mikulak finished second on vault, third on rings and high bar, and fourth on pommel horse to win the all-around title with 85.332 points.
“I think I just did less bad then everyone else, it kind of felt like,” said Mikulak, a six-time national champion, who also won the American Cup in 2014. “But in a way, it showed that I had to fight a lot today, and really never giving up all the way through the end. I ended up persevering.”
Shane Wiskus, a junior at the University of Minnesota, finished fourth with 82.797 points. Wiskus, the two-time Big Ten Gymnast of the Year, finished second on floor exercise, third on vault, and fifth in both the pommel horse and rings. He was sixth on high bar, but finished 10th on parallel bars.
Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine, the silver medalist in the all-around and gold medalist on parallel bars at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, finished second with 83.064 points. Verniaiev finished first on pommel horse and vault, and second on the rings in his first three events, but ironically was undone by a slip on the parallel bars, finishing fourth. He then finished ninth on high bar and 11th on floor exercise.
James Hall of Great Britain was third with 82.999 points, finishing first on the rings and second on the pommel horse and parallel bars, but finished 10th in the high bar.
“I thought Oleg was just going to smash it out of the park for the rest of the competition,” Mikulak said. “Sometimes things just happen. There was a lot of mistakes on P-bars today.”
After dealing with the flu last week, Mikulak said he was surprised that his energy level was sufficient, but he wasn’t as sharp as he would have liked.
“It’s assuring in a way, that these were my easy routines, and that even when I didn’t have a good week or preparation leading up to it, I still just have so much muscle memory built into doing these routines,” he said. “So, it’s nice to have that to fall back on. But these won’t be the routines I’ll be doing at the Olympic Games. So, hopefully when I’m feeling better and got a little more preparation, those bigger routines will be a little more polished than the ones that I put on today.”
Wiskus, a member of the 2019 world championship team and 2019 U.S vault champion, was pleased with his performance.
“I had some really good rhythm through the first four events. Obviously P-bars wasn’t what I wanted,” he said. “Just some grip issues, and I was feeling rushed on the timing. I was first up, so that’s always an issue. And then I finished high bar with one of the better sets I’ve had this year. I can’t complain with my performance. I was really happy with it.
“If anything, I proved to myself today that I can hang in the all-around with all the big names. I know there were mistakes everywhere, but that’s just part of gymnastics, and you’ve got to deal with it. I think what I pulled away from this is just another competition where I got better sense of belonging on this type of stage.”
The American Cup is the first in a series of four all-around world cup events from which countries can qualify two extra gymnasts for the Olympic Games. After the four meets, the three nations that rank the highest will earn the extra spot.
“It wasn’t like the greatest day, but I’m glad I got points, and more opportunities for the U.S. is always going to be a big win,” Mikulak said.