On a strange afternoon of slips and surges, Danell Leyva lost his first-day lead and came from behind in the final event to win the U.S. Olympic Trials in San Jose. He defeated national champion John Orozco, 368.35-367.40, and both earned automatic berths to the Olympic team. The remaining three members and three alternates will be named Sunday at 10 a.m. PT.
Errors defined both Leyva and Orozco on the final day of trials, the fourth and final round of the trials process that began at the Visa Championships in St. Louis three weeks ago. In the second rotation, Leyva made an odd mistake when he fell onto his back on his Manna.
"I just pressed it up too quick," he said. "I tried to play it off."
The collapse hurt his score, and Orozco eventually took a commanding lead after vault, where he stuck his double-twisting front. Leyva played it safe with a Kasamatsu-full. But the Olympic trials demons cropped up again in the final rotation, which had both Orozco and Leyva on parallel bars. First man up, Orozco missed a peach-half and had to improvise, and then his left arm began to cramp and he couldn't control his left hand. Somehow he managed to finish the set, but not without a break after his Healy.
"I really don't know how I did it, but I did," Orozco said of finishing the routine. "And now I can say I'm an Olympian." Orozco said he couldn't wait to see his parents to give them a hug and say "we all did it together."
Said Leyva of his Olympian status: "I didn't think we were gonna know today. But it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders."
With Sam Mikulak scratching five events with a sprained ankle he sustained Thursday on vault, Jonathan Horton moved up to third all-around. But he was not happy afterward, having made errors on high bar and floor, his last two events today.
"It was dumb," Horton said of his mistakes. "I've never done that. I'm frustrated with myself right now."
Chris Brooks, on the other hand, tied for fourth with Jake Dalton, though Brooks fell off pommel horse in the first rotation.
"I'm relieved, I'm happy with myself," Brooks said, admitting that he's in a weird position with the selection still to come. "The consistency hasn't been there."
Dalton fell off pommels too, but overall he had another solid day. And even though most believe he's a lock for the team, he's not as sure.
"I'm not gonna be able to sleep tonight, I know that," he said.
Mikulak, who hit his one event today, pommel horse, sounded confident that he had shown enough throughout the process, and was pleased he had hit pommels four times in a row.
"My performance the past three meets has been more than I could have asked for," he said.
Alex Naddour admitted he won't sleep well tonight, wondering if a pommel horse specialist will be added to the team. But he believes his rings proved that he's more than a one-event contributor.
"I felt like I did my job," he told IG.
The selection committee will crunch the numbers and try to put together the strongest five-man team for the U.S. And Leyva's stepfather/coach Yin Alvarez revealed to reporters what he thought of Team USA's chances in London.
"It's no secret this team can win the gold medal," he said.
Chris Brooks, first up on PH, began well but fell on a single-pommel combo. Must be hard to be the first routine of the Olympic trials final day. John Orozco led off on high bar with a very clean set and stuck layout full-out. Crowd goes nuts. Alexander Naddour saved a couple of near falls, landed his dismount and wiped his brow in relief. Not the routine he was hoping for. Paul Ruggeri hit a strong RO half-on to handspring-double twisting front vault but stepped sideways.
Brandon Wynn hit high bar with some form issues, and Jake Dalton fell off pommels. The guys look a little tight in this first rotation, which is not surprising. David Sender landed his Yurchenko-double pike with one big step. A good vault. Josh Dixon caught a Winkler from elgrip on HB and stuck his layout full-out.
Jonathan Horton swung a great PH set under a lot of pressure. A strong start for him. Danell Leyva nailed his HB set, including the jam-hop to Endo-full, and stuck his dismount. Crowd absulutely erupted. Steven Legendre also got through pommels well for a good start. He might be competing for an alternate spot at best.
Sam Mikulak sprained his left ankle on vault on Thursday and has opted to compete only on pommels today. He can still be selected to the team. Glen Ishino did two Yamawakis (one to mixed grip) and stuck his layout double-double to complete an electric first rotation.
Wynn was solid on floor and stuck his 2.5 dismount, which isn't easy. Naddour showed level Malteses to show the committee he can contribute on more than just pommels. Ruggeri hit p-bars well to make the committee take a closer look at him, even though his pommels and rings are relatively weak. Dixon was clean on floor until he needed a large step on his tucked Arabian double dismount.
Dalton nailed rings and sort of stuck his tucked double-double (lot of body language). Sender got thru PB better than Day 1, but still had a few small errors. Leyva was cooking on floor until his Manna was too high, and he fell onto his back. It's his first major error in the whole trials process, but he can afford it. Horton did well on rings and stuck his tucked double-double. He's feeling it today. Ishino hit floor, ending with a clean triple twist. Legendre looked steady on rings, and is off to a strong start. CJ Maestas was quick and dynamic on PB and almost stuck his double pike.
Orozco got the crowd going after his flairs on floor, and even Leyva's coach Yin Alvarez was clapping for him. Like Wynn, Orozco stuck his 2.5 twist dismount. Brooks made up for his PH with a strong rings set and nodded in approval after he landed his half-in full-out.
Dixon stayed clean on PH, and Dalton followed with a well-done Lopez vault, that he stuck momentarily before taking a step back. Sender missed his Kolman on HB and you could see the look of disappointment on his face. Leyva rebounded from his floor flub with an excellent PH set, and he gave himself a couple of claps afterward.
Horton stuck with a handspring-double front instead of gambling with a Dragulescu. He didn't stick it, but it looked solid and may be a vault the team uses in London in team finals. High bar master Alex Buscaglia linked a full-twisting Tkatchev to Gienger in one of the best routines of the meet. Glen Ishino ripped through his fast-paced PH routine to make things interesting on that event. Legendre over-rotated his Dragulescu and needed several steps backward to stay on the podium. Maestas hit HB but was a bit rough in places. He's still a raw talent. Orozco was strong on horse and looked under control throughout.
Brooks finally hit his double front pike in a meet the way he wanted, and was really pumped after the clean landing. He tucked the second flip a bit, but it should score well. Buscaglia hit HB, an event he has owned for years. Naddour landed his double-twisting front on vault with one big step.
Buscaglia hit a solid floor set, and Leyva, on his weak event, rings, but picked up a little pivoting swing during the Yamawaki sequence. Orozco should gain on him in this rotation. Horton hit p-bars with Brooks cheering throughout. Maestas hit a difficult floor routine, with double-double mount and full-in dismount. He should do well in the coming years. Ishino peeled off rings with one hand on a giant and had to drop off. He just laid on the ground for a few seconds in disbelief. Legendre hit PB, and Ruggeri hit floor, another strong event for him.
Orozco flexed his muscles on rings with level Malteses and steady swing. Brooks nailed PB with Horton calling out vocal cues. Sender had some landing issues on floor and you can tell he's running out of gas a bit. Wynn hit strong rings, which is his strong event. Naddour was looking strong until his hand slipped on a Diamidov and he had to jump off. He couldn't believe it happened. Dixon continues to have a good meet on rings, showing a clean front double pike dismount. Dalton hit a great p-bars set.
Orozco has takent a .15 lead over Leyva.
Sam Mikulak finally got to compete, and he hit pommels with only a slight hitch here and there. But a great set under the circumstances. And more importantly, four hits on PH starting in St. Louis at Visa championships. Legendre hit a lean HB set with high piked and tucked Kovacses, and he almost stuck his triple flyaway. Maestas hit PH, showing a bold set.
Orozco redeemed himself on vault, his only fall on Day one, and landed his double-twisting front without a quiver. OK, maybe a slight one, but his feet never moved. Brooks really let it go on pipe and continues to hit after his PH fall. Ruggeri was psyched to stay on horse, but Wynn had to do a forward roll after his double front vault. Naddour hit HB, which is not his best event. Despite an early fall on PH, Sender remounted and finished some difficult combos very well. Impressive.
Dixon finally broke, on vault, when he fell to his knees on the landing. Dalton looked tentative on HB but got through without a major break. Leyva knows he needs a decent vault and then try to catch Orozco on their last event, PB. He played it safe and did Kasamatsu-full instead of the 1.5, but he did it well. Orozco leads by .55.
Last up on HB, Horton promised he would catch his Cassina after he fell on Thursday, and he did, but his Takemoto finished too soon and he couldn't connect the Yamawaki.
Brooks, everybody's cheerleader, hit floor and gave himself a scream for a job well done. Maestas, built for rings, showed excellent strength skills and ended with a tucked double-double.
First up on PB, Orozco can put added pressure on Leyva with a hit, but he blew his peach-half and had to do a side glide. Then he almost missed a Healy and had to do a straddle cut. It was a bad routine, and Orozco was checking his left thumb after he got off. Naddour hit floor, waved to the crowd and will have to wait until Sunday morning to learn his Olympic fate, like most everyone else. Ruggeri finished a strong day on rings, and waved to the crowd.
Wynn is an animal on PB and throws a really hard set. Dalton stuck his layout double Arabian and and did his usual clean routine. He did his job here and should make the team. A bittersweet ending to Sender's comeback, he started well but ran out of strength and fell to his knees on his double-double. A classy guy, he smiled, waved farewell and got a hug from coach Ivan Ivankov.
With one routine to go, Horton opened floor well, but lost his balance on his third pass and stepped out of bounds. But he managed to stick his full-in dismount. Overall, he looked good in San Jose.
With Orozco swallowing a low score on PB, Leyva just needs a clean set to win trials. He ad libbed a bit, adding a giant after his peach-Diamidov but he never broke. He waved to the crowd then lifted Alvarez in the air and hugged Mom.
Legendre finished a strong day with his amazing tumbling, and the crowd loved it. Ishino closed the meet with a strong PB routine.