2020 Olympic pommel horse finalist Alec Yoder showed up at the first day of U.S. world championships trials yesterday with a pommels set that looked like he never took a break post-Tokyo, earning an automatic spot on the team that will travel to Kitakyushu in October.
Yoder, who competed an excellent routine at a 6.5 difficulty score, looked world medal-worthy at the trial on a day that was rough for most other competitors. But while he’s the only one who looked fully prepared for worlds, both 2020 Olympian Brody Malone – who competed only his best event, high bar – and Stephen Nedoroscik, who competed the same level of difficulty as Yoder on pommels but wasn’t quite as polished and still has more he can potentially add – looked like they could also both be threats internationally on their respective events.
Two gymnasts competed all six events, with Olympic alternate Cameron Bock edging out Olympian Yul Moldauer by a point and a half, though neither looked solid, with multiple falls throughout the afternoon. Bock earned a 76.550, with his best scores coming on rings, where he earned a 13.2, and on vault, where he earned a 13.85, though landed his kaz full on a crash mat and didn’t seem a hundred percent there. Moldauer, meanwhile, earned a 75.050, getting a 14.3 for a mostly tidy floor routine and a 14.4 for his kaz 1½, though he otherwise just looked out of sorts.
I had high hopes for Donnell Whittenburg here, who was on the list to compete floor, rings, and vault, though he ultimately dropped rings from his program, and unfortunately put his hands down at the end of his floor set, which had some other iffy landings to earn just a 12.0, and he crashed both his tsuk full-in double back and his handspring double front on vault, averaging a 13.625.
The other two on the roster were Olympic alternates Alex Diab and Akash Modi. Diab, a rings specialist, had mostly strong positions in his set, but had a significant miss on a handstand and also stumbled his dismount to earn a 14.3, while Modi, who competed only on pommels, had a fall and earned a 12.3.
Given the limited number of athletes invited to the trial and that only eight chose to compete, I’d say that Diab has a pretty fair shot at making it, especially if he can improve his routine on the second day of competition tomorrow, but I’m at a loss for who else, if anyone should go.
The team will be limited to just three men per event in qualifications, so with two potential medal contenders on pommel horse, I think it would make more sense to take both Yoder and Nedoroscik along with one all-arounder, rather than two all-arounders and Yoder. We’ll see how Moldauer and Bock are able to come back on Saturday, but based on medal potential, I think the decision is obvious.
I think Malone and Diab are also both a yes for me, which would leave the team at five athletes with Yoder, Nedoroscik, Malone, Diab, and an all-arounder. Whittenburg would make for the perfect sixth athlete, fitting nicely into the puzzle those first five guys create, but he’ll need to hit everything on the second day of competition, otherwise Bock is the only other option.
Both 2020 Olympian Shane Wiskus and Gage Dyer, one of the top floor and vault workers in the country for the men, were invited to the trial but were absent on Thursday. Several gymnasts who could have been valuable additions to the team – like Olympic alternate Allan Bower and Riley Loos, who just proved himself a true international threat at the Koper World Cup – unfortunately were not given invites, illustrating a massive flaw in the men’s program given the state of the competition on Thursday.
The second round will be held Saturday, September 18, at 4:30 pm ET, and will be streamed live from the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center on YouTube.
Article by Lauren Hopkins