ST. LOUIS — Brody Malone has had quite the year.
Two months ago, he won his second NCAA title. Three weeks ago, he won the U.S. championships for the first time. Now, he’s on his way to the Tokyo Olympics.
Malone won the two-day Olympic trials to secure his spot on the Tokyo squad. Yul Moldauer was second, but had to finish in the top three on at least three events to be a lock. Which he did, posting the highest score of the meet on parallel bars, second-best on pommel horse and finishing third on both floor exercise and still rings.
They were joined by Shane Wiskus and Sam Mikulak on the four-man team, and Alec Yoder in the “plus-one” spot.
The Americans have not won a team medal at the Olympics since 2008, and it will be a longshot for them to break that streak in Tokyo, given how strong the Russians, Chinese and Japanese are. But the Americans head to Tokyo knowing they at least are as mentally strong as any team, counting just one fall – Mikulak on pommel horse Saturday – over the two-day meet.
Brody Malone takes a selfie with supporters in the stands after being named to the Olympic team. (Photo: Grace Hollars, USA TODAY Sports)
Malone is considered the future of the U.S. men, blessed with special talent and an unflappable personality. He had the highest score on high bar, gymnastics’ equivalent to a circus high wire, and was second on floor exercise and still rings, and third on pommel horse.
But never did he look as if he felt any pressure, not showing any emotion until he was done with vault, and his Olympic spot was secure. He finished with 171.6 points, a full three points ahead of Moldauer.
Though Wiskus wasn’t an automatic selection, he might as well have been. He was second to Malone on the first day of competition, and posted the second-best score of the meet on parallel bars and third-best on high bar.
Mikulak, a two-time Olympian who has already said this will be his last year of competition, clearly isn’t the same as he was in the prime of his career. He fell off pommel horse Saturday, and went out of bounds on floor exercise.
But Mikulak is still one of the best in the world on high bar, and the Americans couldn’t afford to pass on his big score on that event. His experience also will be a bonus for a young team, with Tokyo only the first major international competition as a senior for Malone and second for Wiskus.
That left the only question who would earn the additional individual spot. The size of teams was reduced from five gymnasts to four for the Tokyo Olympics, with the extra spots used to create – in theory, at least – more opportunities for specialists and gymnasts from smaller countries. But all countries were allowed to earn up to two of the extra spots, and the American men picked up one with their performance at the Pan American Championships earlier this month.
Stephen Nedoroscik has higher scoring potential on pommel horse than Yoder – though not by much – but isn’t consistent. Nedoroscik fell the first night of trials, in fact, so Yoder finished with the better two-day score.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
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