Mikulak wins fourth straight US Gymnastics Championships
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Sam Mikulak used a steady performance Sunday on the final day of competition to win his fourth straight all-around national championship in advance of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Mikulak, who missed the world championships last fall with an ankle injury, scored 181.5 points, finishing 1.65 points in front of 2012 Olympic alternate Chris Brooks. Jake Dalton, another 2012 Olympian, finished third.
Mikulak broke into a huge smile after sticking the landing on his vault to ensure the victory.
He becomes the first man to win four national titles in a row since Blaine Wilson won five straight in the 1990s.
Eighteen men will be chosen from this competition to compete in the Olympic trials later this month in St. Louis, where they will vie for spots on the five-member Olympic team competing in Rio in August.
The only way to guarantee a spot on that team is to have one of the top two all-around combined scores from this competition and the trials and to be in the top three in three of the six individual events after those competitions.
Mikulak didn't manage that - his best finishes were second on the parallel bars and pommel horse - but his performance solidified his position as the nation's top all-around male gymnast.
Brooks, who has been grappling with shoulder problems this year, made a huge statement as he makes one final run at the Olympic team. The 29-year-old nailed his parallel bars routine, letting out a yell as he finished with a 15.8, then took the all-around lead on the fourth rotation, putting up a 15.9 on the high bar. That was good enough for second place in that event, behind Paul Ruggeri, who posted a 16.0, the day's top individual event score.
Dalton, who also missed the world championship team last fall after undergoing shoulder surgery, won the floor exercise and was the co-champion in the vault.
Twenty-one-year-old Donnell Whittenburg, who held a slim lead after the first day of all-around competition on Friday, slipped into a tie for fifth place, despite winning the rings.
He had a solid first routine on the parallel bars, scoring a 15.4. But Mikulak followed him on that event and took the lead with a 15.5, despite taking two big steps on his landing.
On the second rotation, Whittenburg missed a grab during his high bar routine, falling to the mat and scoring a 14.0. Mikulak saved a catch with his fingertips on the high bar and scored a 14.7, but he was much better on the floor, pumping his fist after a 15.4.
He had even better routine on the pommel horse, scoring a 15.5 to extend his lead.
The competition included two other men trying to make their second Olympics. John Orozco (177.2 points) finished 10th and Danell Leyva (173.75) finished in 16th place.
Yul Moldauer, the NCAA all-around champion from Oklahoma who finished fourth, and Stanford's Akash Modi, the 2015 NCAA champion, will both be part of the U.S. national team that was named after the meet.
Two-time Olympian Jonathan Horton missed the championships and will miss the Olympics with a shoulder injury suffered early this year.