Danell Leyva was near flawless today at the U.S. Olympic Trials in San Jose, Calif., just as he had been three weeks earlier at the Visa Championships in St. Louis. Only this time, he regained the edge over national champion John Orozco as each try to make the Olympic team.
Leyva, the 2011 U.S. champion, hit all six events and surged ahead of Orozco, who had one major error when he fell on his vault. With one day remaining in the Olympic trials process, which began at the Visa Championships (scores are cumulative), Leyva leads Orozco, 276.500-275.550. Sam Mikulak maintained his third-place ranking with a six-for-six effort, totaling 274.650.
On the day, Mikulak acutally scored the highest all-around with 91.80, one tenth better than Leyva, with Orozco third at 90.70.
Leyva began the meet on floor with a bounce out of bounds on his layout double-double mount, but that would be his biggest mistake all day. He finished on his two strengths, parallel bars and high bar, where he tallied the highest scores on those events. He said that losing his national title earlier in the month contributed to his performance here.
"It was a huge factor," he said. "It was huge motivation when I went back home, finishing second (in St. Louis) by .05."
Orozco says he isn't as concerned with the rankings at this point, and just wants to make the Olympic team.
"Regardless of what happens, we're all gonna be friends afterward," he said, adding that "the only thing I'd like to do is my best."
Which is what Mikulak did here, starting with an extremely clean routine on parallel bars, where he was the first man up. After sticking his dismount, he smiled and seemed to relax a bit.
"That was a lot of weight off my back," he said. And of his ability to avoid major mistakes, he added, "I definitely was able to zone everything out."
On a day when few errors were made overall, Horton lost a bit of ground on the leaders when he peeled off high bar on his Cassina. But that was his only error, but one that left him a little perplexed.
"I couldn't have done that skill any better than I did," he said, adding that the bar had felt slippery when he first mounted. "I just slipped off."
Jake Dalton had another strong outing to galvanize his spot on the team, but former Oklahoma teammate Chris Brooks had trouble, just as he had in St. Louis. He fell off parallel bars on a peach-full and put his hands down on a high handspring-double front pike on vault. The whole way through, however, he was pulling for his friend and training mate Horton.
"John's like a brother to me -- no, he is a brother to me," Brooks said. "I think he deserves to be on this Olympic team just as much as anybody does."
Horton refuted the notion that he and best friend Brooks were esstentially fighting for the same spot on the team, saying that he could see a scenario in which both make it.
In the subplot for a pommel horse specialist -- if one will even be selected on a five-man team -- Alex Naddour made a strong statement in the final rotation with an impeccable set worth 15.400 and the top score. He said he played it safe with a 6.40 D-score, but actually has trained a 6.8 routine, as well.
The men's trials conclude Saturday, and the top two all-around ranks automatically qualify for the team, as long as the gymnasts also have a top-three ranking on at least three events.
John Orozco: Clean piked Arabian double front mount, to split jump. Very clean throughout with just a slight knee bend on his 2.5 twist dismount. Great PH set until he lost rhythm before the dismount and had to press it up. Steady rings and dismounted with a 1.5-twisting double back. Finally a break from Orozco, who lacked an effective block on vault and sat down his handspring-double-twisting front. Unbelievable rebound routine on PB after falling on vault. Dmitrienko, Tippelt, stuck double pike, feet glued together. Great HB set to finish (Tkatchev-full, Moznik).
Danell Leyva: Bounced O.B. on his double-double floor mount, showing the adrenaline that an Olympic trials will bring. Settled down and stuck his double layout dismount. Steady set with a Tong Fei and no breaks of rhythm on PH. And he took back the lead over Orozco, but by only .05. Picked up some swing after his Yamawakis but settled down and stuck his layout full-out off rings. Orozco passed him on the scoreboard again, but Mikulak soared to first. Leyva Landed his Kasamatsu-1.5 but stepped sideways over the line. Swung through PB with four peach skills to start and needed only a small hop on his double pike. Hit HB but did not connect his jam-hop to Endo. Still good enough to take a lead into the final day.
Sam Mikulak: First up on p-bars and absolutely rocked his original set, stuck the double pike and smiled ear to ear. Another excellent set on HB, with numerous skills teetering in the handstand. Nobody catches his Kolman as early. Stuck his layout double-double. Another rocked routine on floor, with a double-double mount and triple twist dismount. Very long and difficult set. Hit PH and seemed to cover well on his flair handstand pirouette dismount. Looked like he had to add an extra pirouette. Steady on his weak event, rings, and saved his tucked double-double with a cat-like landing. Crooked Lopez vault and stepped sideways over the line, but hit 6-for-6.
Jonathan Horton: Solid back roll to Maltese mount on rings and showed pretty good control elsewhere and needed just a small hop on his tucked double-double. Pumped his fist in relief to have started well. Landed a handspring-double front with one large hop. Powered through a difficult PB set with a Dmitrienko and Morisue. Buddy Chris Brooks screamed "C'mon, baby!" right before the dismount. Very classy, as they both have similar strengths and fighting for the same berth in a way. Horton missed his opening release on HB, a Cassina that just had too much rotation. He caught a layout Kovacs and Kolman and made everything else. He pointed to the high bar afterward, wondering why he didn't hang on. Strong floor but his double front pike was semi-tucked. Missed one of his PH handstands but covered well enough, but he can't give away tenths like that on his weak event.
Jake Dalton: Steady rings set, with large step after tucked double-double. Solid Lopez vault (Kasamatsu-double twist), one step. Great PB with his Dalton and front 1.25. Very clean throughout. Looked VERY tentative on HB but got through. Stuck his layout Arabian double FX mount and was very clean throughout, sticking his triple twist. The best floor set of the meet. Finished a strong meet with one of his best PH routines under the circumstances.
Steven Legendre: Solid on rings with a tucked double-double dismount (hop). Did a stronger Dragulescu than usual, completing the half turn and traveling very far. Solid PB and stuck his double pike. He's got some momentum and kept it up on HB, sticking his triple flyaway. Really got the crowd going on floor with his Hypolito. Overall he showed the most amplitude of any tumbler (piked double Arabian dismount). Fought to stay on PH and did, but a big form break midway through will cost him.
Chris Brooks: Perfect rings set for him to start to get back into the mix. He stuck his half-in full-out dismount. Excellent handspring-piked double front vault in the air but bounced forward to his hands. Looked clean on his PB peaches but fell outside the bars on the peach-full. Great HB, linking a Takemoto-full to Yamawaki-Gienger. Hit floor with tucked and piked double fronts.
Glenn Ishino: Clean floor set to open his meet, ending with a tight triple twist. Rifled through his fast-paced PH routine and looked very pleased with the hit. Like Naddour, he needs this event to be considered for the team. Clean rings but low difficulty. Stuck a Kasamatsu-full vault. Really well-done PB set with excellent form, technique and a stuck double pike. Superb HB, mounting with a Yamawaki to mixed grip.
Alex Naddour: Hit rings and ended with a 1.5 twisting double back, but will have to wait five rotations to show his pommel horse prowess, his real ticket to London if the committee decides to go that route. Vaulted a somewhat sloppy double-twisting layout front. Hit solid PB and really looks focused. Clean but fairly simple HB routine, sticking his layout full-out. Workman-like on FX but dismounted with a solid tucked full-out. Excellent PH, mounting with 2 handstands and following with a full kehre, then spindle on the end. You could tell he was pumped after the flair handstand pirouette dismount.
David Sender: Great peach mount and high Tipplet on PB, but Sender missed his peach-full and had to jump off. Strong HB set but peeled off on the dismount and did a double layout. Lou Yun floor mount but dismounted with only a double twist. A hit PH set brought a smile to his face. Strong rings set with a stuck double-double. Finished with a Yurchenko-double pike, landed a little low, but landed nonetheless.
Paul Ruggeri: Great PB set to start, throwing a Dmitrienko and sticking his double pike. Long routine! Another great routine on HB with lots of variety. He's a real talent. After a strong FX set he hit PH, his weak event.
Brandon Wynn: Clean front-full to double front floor mount, and the crowd loved his maltese, inches off the floor. Great set overall. Great rings set with stuck double-double, but he only scored 12.90 on PH in the previous rotation. Wynn stuck (or covered his imbalance) his handspring-double front. Difficult p-bar set but seemed to clip the bar on his double pike dismount. Strong high bar with a flaired full-twisting double layout, stuck cold.
Alex Buscaglia: Broke after his giant to arabian front roll-out on p-bars. Linked his Tkatchev-full to Gienger and lit up the crowd with an exciting set overall. Sat down on floor and fell off PH. Weak rings, but strong vault to finish (RO half-on to handspring-double-twisting front).
Josh Dixon: Shaky on floor to start, going OB on his mount, but stayed on his feet the rest of the way. Great PH set with flaired spindle around pommel. Home crowd (for Dixon) loved it. Winkler from elgrip on HB, but tucked his half-in half-out dismount.
C.J. Maestas: Started on PB and reminiscent of Raj Bhavsar, overpowering the event with his strength. Hit well. Exciting HB set with a Kolman. A bit wild on floor, but this is good experience for him for 2016. Hit pommels (multiple handstands) and rings (tucked double-double). Yurchenko-double twist with two small hops.