If Team USA hopes to win a gold medal in men's gymnastics, the qualifying round offered a perfect blueprint for getting it done.
The United States qualified for the team finals with the highest score on Saturday, July 28. Team USA finished first in qualifying with 275.342 points. Russia was second with 272.595 points. Great Britain placed third with 272.420 points. Germany finished fourth.
Qualifying scores do not carry over to the team final on Monday. The top eight teams will compete for the gold medal. Individual event finalists and all-around finalists were also determined on Saturday.
Japan, a gold-medal favorite coming into London, placed fifth. Individually, three-time world champion Kohei Uchimura committed a series of atypical errors. Uchimura fell off the high bar before he could execute a release and spun off the pommel horse to finish ninth in individual scoring. Kazuhito Tanaka also botched his high bar routine, swinging one-handed at one point.
China, the defending Olympic champion, finished fifth in qualifying. Critical errors also set the Chinese back. Chen Yibing struggled on the parallel bars and Zou Kai, the reigning gold medalist on the high bar, barely qualified for the final. Guo Weiyang, who replaced injured 2004 pommel horse gold medalist Teng Haibin, also suffered a critical fall that cost China points.
Team USA, on the other hand, was fantastic across the board.
Danell Leyva finished as the top scorer in the all-around competition. Leyva tallied 91.265 points. John Orozco finished fourth with 90.597 points. Both gymnasts will compete in the all-around final In individual event finals, Jake Dalton qualified for the floor exercise and Sam Mikulak qualified in the vault after scoring an impressive 16.3. Leyva and Jonathan Horton will both compete in the high bar final.
Horton redeemed himself from falls on the parallel bars and pommel horse and a bad dismount on the rings with a thrilling routine on the high bar. He scored 15.566 points on that apparatus. It was one of a series of strong high bar performances for Team USA. Leyva was flawless in his high flying releases and so was Orozco. The collective performance there allowed the United States to grab the lead.
Team USA held onto the lead with a strong showing from Leyva and Dalton on the floor exercise. Both showed the right combination of power and balance to register high scores.
Doing well in qualifying does not automatically mean a strong final performance is assured. But it's difficult to believe Team USA can't find a way mirror this performance on Monday. If it does, the 1984 U.S. men's gymnastics team will finally have some company atop the podium.
John Coon has covered gymnastics as a sports reporter for many publications and wire services. He and his girlfriend have also been past season ticket holders for University of Utah gymnastics meets.
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