Analyzing the U.S. gymnastics men’s World Championships team
PITTSBURGH -- The U.S. gymnastics roster for the World Championships includes four of the five men from the 2012 U.S. Olympic team who will be looking to make up for London disappointment.
Olympians Sam Mikulak, John Orozco, Jacob Dalton and Danell Leyva were chosen for the team after the P&G Championships finished Sunday. The team also includes two-time World Championships veteran Alex Naddour and a rookie, Donnell Whittenburg.
The most notable omission was Jonathan Horton, a two-time 2008 Olympic medalist who came back from injury to compete for the first time since the London Olympics at the P&G Championships. Horton, 28 with a wife and baby boy, admitted he wasn’t at full strength this week, finishing eighth in the all-around, and made the Pan American Championships team.
The chosen men will head to Nanning, China, in about five weeks for the first World Championships with a team event since the London Olympics. Remember, the U.S. went into London with medal hopes and finished a forgettable fifth.
This quintet will be underdogs to host China and Japan, the reigning Olympic and World gold and silver medalists.
But the Americans regained confidence at last year’s World Championships, where only individual medals were at stake. Four different U.S. men won medals on four different events. Only Japan won more medals.
The best U.S. gymnast, Sam Mikulak, was not one of the four medal winners at last year’s Worlds. He rallied to win his second straight P&G Championships all-around title Sunday.
Mikulak will take aim at an all-around medal in Nanning after a high bar error cost him a place on the podium in Antwerp last year. Japan’s Kohei Uchimura is the overwhelming favorite to win his fifth straight World all-around title (he’s already the only male or female gymnast to win four).
Here’s a look at the U.S. team and each gymnast’s credentials:
Sam Mikulak: 2012 Olympian, 2013 Worlds veteran. Mikulak is the two-time reigning U.S. all-around champion who finished sixth in the all-around at the 2013 World Championships. He also finished fifth on vault at the Olympics and fourth on high bar at the World Championships. He’ll be counted on in several events in the team final.
John Orozco: 2012 Olympian, 2011/2013 Worlds veteran. Orozco, the 2012 U.S. all-around champion, finished second to Mikulak this year. In 2011, he was second to Uchimura in Worlds all-around qualifying and finished fifth. He qualified fourth in London and finished eighth. Orozco is also the 2013 World bronze medalist on parallel bars and made the 2011 Worlds high bar final.
Jacob Dalton: 2012 Olympian, 2011/2013 Worlds veteran. Dalton was third in the P&G Championships all-around. In Nanning, he’ll be counted on to deliver a big score on floor exercise. He’s the reigning World silver medalist there and finished fifth at the Olympics.
Donnell Whittenburg: The 20-year-old from Baltimore is the only member of the team with no Worlds experience as well as the youngest. He was fourth in the all-around at the P&G Championships. He also won vault and placed second on still rings, so he could be a medal threat in both in Nanning. Whittenburg outscored Orozco and Leyva in the all-around at both the 2014 Winter Cup and National Qualifier in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Danell Leyva: 2012 Olympian, 2011 Worlds veteran. Leyva has the top international credentials on the team, but the last two years have been a struggle. He was questionable to make last year’s Worlds team, then was named but pulled out with a shoulder injury. Leyva won the 2011 U.S. all-around title and Olympic all-around bronze in 2012, as well as World gold on parallel bars in 2011. He was fifth in the all-around this week and is an asset on high bar and parallel bars when at his best.
Alex Naddour: 2011/2013 Worlds veteran. Naddour, second in the all-around at last year’s P&G Championships, was sixth this year. But he earned his spot on the team, as he has before, with his pommel horse routine. The U.S. is historically weak on the apparatus, but Naddour has finished first or second on pommel horse at the last four U.S. Championships.