Sam Mikulak wins fifth national title at U.S. Gymnastics Championships

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Sam Mikulak showed the world what he’s capable of as he grabbed his fifth national title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Boston.

After an up-and-down opening night, Mikulak rebounded with a two-day score of 172.900 in the all-around. He is the first man to claim five U.S. titles since Blaine Wilson’s run from 1996 to 2000 and just the sixth man ever to accomplish the feat.

Yul Moldauer, last year’s national champion, recovered from a tough night on Thursday to post a 168.150 total and finish second. Last year’s runner-up, Allan Bower, came in third with a two-day total of 166.950.

Mikulak’s 87.750 all-around total today is the second highest score in the world in 2018, according to the gymnastics blog thegymter.net. It shows that he is capable of what he has sought for so long: success on the World stage.

“If I can go out and do this, I think I can make a very strong case for it. But it all comes down to what happens out there.” – Sam Mikulak

 

Now the Worlds

Though he remains focused on leading the U.S. at this fall’s World Championships, he is relishing his fifth national win.

“It’s a wonderful stepping stone,” said Mikulak. “This is probably my favourite one that I’ve won so far, just because I feel like I’m at a different place in my confidence, in my gymnastics, and being able to ride this going into World Championships will definitely set me up feeling a little bit more confident.”

He was impressive on all six apparatus but seemed to come alive in the fifth rotation on the parallel bars. After nailing his routine – punctuated by a perfectly stuck dismount – Mikulak screamed “Come on!” as he ran off the podium.

By the time he hopped on the high bar in the final rotation, it was merely a formality. Mikulak had no trouble on the high-flying release move that he missed to open his routine on Thursday and, again, ended his routine with a stuck dismount to claim the title. He erupted, pumping his fists with the victory secured.

“I just felt relieved,” Mikulak said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself today because I didn’t want a similar performance as Thursday. I really wanted this day to be a proving myself type of day”.

“This whole couple weeks has just been one thing after the next, and for it finally pay off and work, it was a big weight off my chest.”

One-sided competition

In addition to the all-around title, which he won by a staggering 4.750 margin, Mikulak won the titles on the floor exercise, parallel bars and high bar.

Coming into Boston, many expected a close competition between Mikulak and Moldauer, but mistakes on night one from Moldauer dropped him to ninth in the standings.

“I felt like I had something to prove after Thursday,” Moldauer said. “You’re going to have a rough day but you can’t hold on to that. Just knowing that I could reset, come out here and perform how I wanted to perform really just helped me.”

Yul Moldauer competes on the parallel bars during the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Boston.

Moldauer charged out of the gates, opening with a parallel bars routine that scored .500 higher than on night one.

“It was very important [to start strong] because I knew if I could start off well I could keep that flowing and keep that energy high,” said Moldauer. “Today was fun. There were more people here. The guys looked good, and again, I was with my teammates.”

He continued to roll through the events, showing the consistent form that earned him a seventh-place finish in the all-around and the U.S. men’s only medal – a bronze on the floor exercise – at last year’s World Championships.

Allan Bower performs on the pommel horse on day 3 of the U.S. Gymnastics Championships.

Consistency was also key for Bower who completed his pre-meet goal to hit 12 of 12 routines. He hopes that consistency will carry him to the World Championships where there is little room for error.

“I think consistency’s really important,” Bower said. “I’m excited to see how training goes at World selection camp, and I’m going to treat every day like it’s competition day.”

Road to Tokyo

The U.S. men’s team for the World Championships won’t be decided until after two more days of competition at a selection camp in Colorado Springs, Sept. 19-23. Up to eight men will be named to participate in that camp following today’s competition.

Competition at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar, provides the first opportunity for teams that finish in the top three to qualify to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“This is a young group and we’ve all got a lot to prove,” Mikulak said.

“I’m just excited for what’s in store for us all together.”

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Author: Scott Bregman
Scott Bregman is a U.S.-based social media producer for the Olympic Channel.