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Brody Malone leads at Olympic gymnastics trials; Shane Wiskus makes major comeback

2021 U.S. all-around national champion Brody Malone is leading a close battle to secure an automatic Olympic qualifying spot at the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials with an all-around score of 85.250 after Day 1.

Brody Malone proved his surprising U.S. Gymnastics Championships victory earlier this month -- at the first senior nationals of his career -- was far from a fluke, once again leading the rest of the domestic competition halfway through the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials.

With six more clean routines on Saturday, the 21-year-old would have a guaranteed spot on the Olympic team, almost a full point ahead as day one concluded on Thursday night. The cumulative winner when the men’s event ends will lock in a spot on the Olympic team, and so will the runner-up, provided that person finishes top three in at least three events in St. Louis, Missouri.

Malone has an all-around score of 85.25 points.

A 2019 and 2021 NCAA all-around champion for Stanford, he is setting himself up to contribute to the U.S. team final on the most events, having notched the top score on high bar (14.45), tied for first on floor exercise (14.6), and in second on still rings (14.2) and third on parallel bar (14.1).

Just behind Malone, and perhaps the bigger story of the night, was Shane Wiskus with 84.3 points.

Wiskus had the most devastating finish to the 2021 U.S. Championships, and 18 days later he returned to the competition floor for the most redemptive start to the Olympic Trials.

In second place after 11 of 12 events in Fort Worth, Texas, Wiskus ended the event with a shocking high bar routine that included three falls. He dropped to ninth in the all-around.

This time, Wiskus was clean across the board – including the third-highest-scoring high bar routine (13.8) – and had the best night of his career when it mattered most, scoring 84.3 points.

GYMNASTICS TRIALS: Results | TV Schedule | Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview

The recent University of Minnesota grad has never finished higher than fourth in the all-around at U.S. Championships.

“He’s got something going for him,” 1984 Olympic team champion Tim Daggett said of Wiskus on the NBCSN broadcast. “He does not lack confidence, he never has. He shouldn’t because he’s got tremendous ability.”

If all athletes were to repeat their performances on day two, Wiskus would ensure his spot on the four-man Olympic team; he had the highest score on parallel bars (14.5), was third on both vault (14.6) and high bar (13.8).

Yul Moldauer, the 2017 U.S. all-around and two-time U.S. silver medalist, sits third with 83.65 points. He was second on both parallel bars (14.4) and pommel horse (14.1).

Contending for his third Olympic team, Sam Mikulak is fourth with 83.2 points. The six-time national champion tied Malone for the high score on floor and was second-best on high bar (13.85).

Brandon Briones, a rising junior at Stanford and teammate of Malone’s, rounds out the top five with 82.7 points. He was fourth at his first senior nationals in Fort Worth.

The other all-arounders who have been in the Olympic team mix have an uphill climb to remain as such: 2016 Olympic alternate Akash Modi is in sixth (82.55) and no better than tied for fourth on any particular event and three-time World team alternate Allan Bower is right behind him (82.5) but third on pommel horse (14.05)

Colin Van Wicklen, who competed on three events in the 2018 Worlds team final and won four U.S. event medals between the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Championships, was injured during warmups and withdrew before the start of competition.

In addition to the four-person Olympic team, the U.S. men also qualified one individual spot for Tokyo. That spot will likely be filled by an event specialist, and several remain in the running.

After missing the U.S. Championships while he was in Rio -- being an alternate for the team at Pan American Championships -- 2016 Olympic alternate Donnell Whittenburg added his name to the conversation, landing the highest score on vault (15.05) by 0.35 points. He hasn’t had this strong of a showing since winning vault and placing third in the all-around at the 2017 U.S. Championships; Whittenburg earned the bronze medal on vault at the 2015 World Championships. Fourteenth in the all-around, Whittenburg also had the third-highest score on rings (14.1).

Pommel horse has long been the U.S. men’s weakest event, but two powerhouses have emerged in the last couple years as favorites to go to Tokyo: Stephen Nedoroscik and Alec Yoder.

Nedoroscik won the U.S. title on the event in Fort Worth -- outscoring Yoder both days -- but came off the horse at Trials for a one-point deduction. His 13.65 points (fifth best) may have made things clearer for the selection committee.

“I tried my hardest,” Nedoroscik said to the camera. “I got lost in the moment, type of thing... I have to be happy with what I did and I’m happy to be here. ... There’s always Saturday, so stay tuned.”

Yoder lived up to the pressure a few rotations later, scoring 15.05 points -- higher than either of his scores from nationals -- and was nearly a full point ahead of Moldauer, who was second.

“It didn’t impact me,” Yoder told NBC reporter Andrea Joyce of Nedoroscik’s fall. “In gymnastics, you never want that to happen for anybody.”

“All the hard work is paying off,” he continued about his own performance, “so such a great feeling. ... I just have to keep swinging. I know what I can do on this event and I want to prove it.”

Yoder also competes on parallel bars and was tied for eighth there with a score of 13.9.

Alex Diab and Gage Dyer are the remaining specialists in contention. Diab had the highest rings score (14.5), which was just 0.3 points ahead of second-place Malone, and Dyer, who was second on floor and third on vault at nationals, tied for fifth on both of his events this time.

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