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Mikulak Maintains His Edge at Olympic Trials
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

ST. LOUIS—In spite of missing his first two events, Sam Mikulak maintained his lead after the first day of Olympic trials. Scores from tonight were added to the two-day total of the P&G Championships in Hartford, Conn. Mikulak has 272.150 to lead second-place Chris Brooks, who had another perfect night (269.025). Jake Dalton kept his third place ranking with 267.325.

Counting tonight only, Mikulak won with 90.650, followed by Brooks (89.175) and Danell Leyva (88.725).

Mikulak began the night on parallel bars, where he hit a beautiful routine before sitting down his double front. High bar didn't go much better when his Takemoto finished on the wrong side of the bar. This caused a major break when he had to muscle the following giant.

"I think I've done this too many times, and I was upset with it," said Mikulak, who added that support from his family in the crowd helped him to regroup. He nailed floor exercise and followed with a superb pommel horse set, after which he released some frustration with a fist pump.

Brooks continued his impressive performance with six more hit routines to go with the 12 he nailed in Hartford. He also said the pressure had increased in St. Louis.

"You can feel it in the air," he said. "It's more intense."

Brooks implied the Mikulak has a spot locked up, but no one else. "The rest of us are fighting for second through ninth," he said. "The case I'm trying to make for myself is consistency."

Dalton was solid on five events but broke on parallel bars. And although many believe he's a lock along with Mikulak and Donnell Whittenburg, he's not taking anything for granted.

"I want to do anything I can to help Team USA."

Akash Modi retained his fourth place from P&G Championships, and it might have been higher had he not fallen from pommels in the final rotation. His personal highlight was a 15.225 on parallel bars.

There was no change in  Whittenburg's fifth-place ranking, although the two he was tied with faded to sixth (Yul Moldauer) and 14th (Sean Melton). Whittenburg had the high score on parallel bars (15.70) but one hand peeled off the high bar on a release skill. He managed to regrasp the bar and finish the giant, but lost several tenths in the process.

"It felt pretty good," he said of his night. "High bar gave me a little trouble. I have no idea (how I made the giant). In gymnastics, you have to think fast."

John Orozco went four for four. He was excellent on parallel bars and high bar (highest score of 15.475), and performed an easier routine on pommels and was solid on rings.

Alex Naddour did every event but high bar and led the pommel horse scores with 15.650. In Hartford, he missed one of his routines on horse, a weak event for the U.S.

"I think no one is perfect," he said. "If you have a mistake, forget it."

Leyva looked like a different gymnast in St. Louis. What was the difference for him?

"The preparation," he said. "The amount of work I put in (since Hartford)."

The final round of the men's Olympic trials on Saturday night will be intense. So many gymnasts are on the bubble. But only a few will dreams will be realized.

Notes

Rotation 1:

Lots of hits and sticks in rotation one, but the highlight had to be Steven Legendre on floor, who absolutely rocked his best routine ever on that event. Not sure he should have placed second to close friend Jake Dalton on the event. Dalton seemed to have more hops after his landings, and Legendre had a 6.8 D-score to Dalton's 6.7.

John Orozco opened his Olympic bid with an excellent set on p-bars, sticking his double pike.  Alex Naddour also stuck his double pike on the event.

Donnell Whittenburg anchored p-bars and took the first round lead with a 15.700, which included a stuck barani-out.

Four-time national champion Sam Mikulak was not one of the hits in rotation one. After an impeccable set on p-bars, he sat down his double front. You have to wonder what causes all of these fluky mistakes.

Rotation 2:

On high bar, Mikulak's Takemoto finished on the wrong side of the bar, which was followed by a handstand pushup. Another blown routine.

Whittenburg's pipe set was equally adventurous. One peeled off on a Moznik but he somehow regained his grip and finished the giant.

Orozco hit well on high bar and looks like a different gymnast here than in Hartford.

Naddour did not compete on high bar.

Rotation 3:

Great Bhavsar from Akash Modi on p-bars, and a tidy full-out dismount.

Excellent triple-double mount from Eddie Penev on floor.

Mikulak hit a clean set on floor for 15.65.

Chris Brooks is three for three after starting on rings.

Danell Leyva has also gone three for three and scored 15.60 on p-bars.

Orozco did not compete on floor.

Rotation 4:

First up on pommels, Mikulak got revenge with an amazing set that seemed to fire him up.

Leyva nailed high bar with beautiful releases, so he hit two of the three events the team would need him on.

Orozco hit pommels with an easier routine than in Hartford.

Naddour helped his cause with a difficult set on horse for a 15.65 (6.8).

Rotation 5:

Great floor routine from Donothan Bailey. Stuck his double Arabian dismount.

Naddour edged Whittenburg on rings, 15.225-15.175.

Dalton finally made a mistake with intermediate swings on p-bars.

Yul Moldauer led the p-bar rotation with a 15.35.

Rotation 6:

Bailey hit a difficult pommel horse routine.

Brooks finished his meet on pommels and hit cold. He is currently 18 for 18. Can anyone else in the field lay claim to that?

Naddour landed his Tsukahara-double pike. He uses a controlled run, so the vault is not that high. But he took only a small step.

After vaulting Kasamatsu-1.5 in Hartford, Mikulak finally upgraded to the Lopez he used in 2012. And it was solid.

Whittenburg closed his night with a solid Dragulescu on vault.

Modi was cruising on pommels before slipping off midway through his routine.

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