This week at national championships, the men’s selection committee will choose one junior gymnast to join rhythmic gymnast Elizabeth Kapitonova and trampoline athlete Alyssa Oh at this year’s Youth Olympic Games, to be held in Buenos Aires this fall.
Juniors born in 2001 or 2002 are able to participate in the men’s division of the Youth Olympic Games, with U.S. national team members Paul Juda, Brandon Briones, John Chou, Justin Ah Chow, Colt Walker, and Lazarus Barnhill all age-eligible and expected to compete this weekend.
Born in January of 2001, Barnhill barely squeaks into this age group. As the oldest eligible junior and the all-around champion at Pacific Rim Championships in Colombia this spring, he is definitely the favorite to earn that spot. Earlier this season, he struggled on parallel bars, but as he built consistency internationally, he began showing a strong ability to contend on the world stage, and his score of 77.800 at Pac Rims would have seen him in the top eight at the recent European Championships.
Should Barnhill falter, Briones and Chou will be eagerly looking to take the all-around title in the junior field. With neither scoring lower than an 8.6 in execution at J.O. nationals, you can count on their consistency when they need to hit. Briones nearly swept the titles at J.O.’s, winning the all-around, still rings, parallel bar and high bar golds, and he also managed to pick up a silver on the floor exercise. He recently added a Kovacs into his high bar routine and we are looking forward to him competing it at nationals.
Juda has also had a standout year. He was originally named to the Pac Rims team before being replaced by Barnhill. In the past year, he placed second at U.S. Championships, and he was the highest-placing Youth Olympic Games age-eligible gymnast to compete at the Winter Cup, where he also won the floor title.
Regardless of how Ah Chow does, he will have his coach, Yin Alvarez, there to cheer him on. Ah Chow, like Leyva, excels on high bar, and he earned one of the three spots at Pac Rims this year, where he placed sixth all-around and won the vault title. He has a beautiful line and toe point on his best event and we look forward to seeing more from him in the future.
Walker has placed between third and sixth in the all-around at various meets over the past few years, and is an incredibly steady competitor. Additionally, though he’s not currently on the national team, Jeremy Bischoff has had a stellar season in 2018, picking up the silver in the all-around at J.O. nationals, where he also won the parallel bars title. Look for him to earn a spot on the national team and contend for that YOG spot as well.
Also eligible to represent the United States at the Youth Olympic Games are Crew Bold, Taylor Burkhart, Matthew Cormier, Isaiah Drake, Michael Jaroh, and Nicolas Kuebler.
The U.S. men’s program sent athletes to the first two Youth Olympic Games, with Jesse Glenn attending Singapore 2010 and Alec Yoder attending Nanjing 2014. Yoder, who currently competes for United States and will be contending for a spot on the worlds team this year, won a bronze medal in the all-around, scoring an 82.800 in last quad’s code.
Article by Kensley Behel
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