Sam Mikulak, Yul Moldauer, Brody Malone highlight U.S. Olympic men’s gymnastics team

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Brody Malone went from sitting outside the picture for the U.S. Olympic men’s gymnastics team to being the first to lock in his trip to Tokyo in a matter of weeks.

The 21-year-old won the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials in St. Louis to automatically qualify for the four-person team. He is the youngest member of the five U.S. men’s gymnasts who will compete in Tokyo.

Yul Moldauer also guaranteed his Olympic debut by meeting both requirements of the second spot — second in the all-around and finishing top three on at least three apparatuses.

After the selection committee met to decide the two other team members, it was Shane Wiskus and Sam Mikulak who were determined to make up the strongest U.S. team.

Alec Yoder was chosen for the individual spot — new to this year’s Olympic program — and will vie for a pommel horse medal in Japan.

Malone won the U.S. junior title in 2017 but had never competed against the nation’s best at the senior level until earlier this month at the 2021 U.S. Championships. He missed the 2018 and 2019 editions, first while moving from his small Georgia hometown to Stanford and then to compete at the Pan American Games instead.

The rising Stanford senior was a star at the collegiate level, though, winning the NCAA title as a freshman in 2019 and defending his crown in 2021 (both NCAAs and U.S. Championships were not held in 2020 due to the pandemic).

He made headlines in Fort Worth, Texas, both for his gymnastics excellence and his background. Malone won nationals over a deep field that included six-time U.S. champion Mikulak and 2017 U.S. champ Moldauer. Of note, only Mikulak and Moldauer had won the NCAA men’s championship as freshmen before Malone.

It then became well known that Malone grew up competing in rodeo — team roping with younger brother Cooper, to be exact — and his hobbies include ‘frog gigging’ (hunting frogs with a long, pronged spear, in his case for the purpose of a frog fry), a term he helped introduce to many.

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He remained his calm, cool, collected and unfazed self at Trials, leading from the fifth rotation on Thursday’s Day 1 all the way through to the 12th and final rotation Saturday afternoon. His final score of 171.6 points was 3 ahead of Moldauer (168.6).

Malone won high bar with a two-day score of 29.25, and was second on both floor exercise (29.1) and still rings (28.45).

His strongest event is high bar, where he should contend for an Olympic medal at that event final in early August.

“That was as perfect as any routine I’ve seen,” NBC commentator and Olympic medalist Tim Daggett said of Malone’s routine, adding that it was “spectacular.”

Now 24, Moldauer first made his name known by winning the 2017 American Cup and 2017 U.S. Championships, when Mikulak was only competing two events, and then going on to earn bronze on floor at the 2017 Worlds.

Moldauer remained one of the top men throughout this Olympic quad, as U.S. all-around runner-up in both 2018 and 2019, and helped the U.S. team to fourth at the past two world championships.

Five years after his first Olympic Trials, where he was no better than fifth on any given event, this time Moldauer won parallel bars with a score of 28.95, was second on pommel horse (28.35) and third on floor (29.05).

Wiskus, who was second on Thursday and traded spots with Moldauer throughout Saturday, finished third with 168.15 points. He was second on parallel bars (28.85) and third on high bar (27.4).

Two-time Olympian Mikulak was fourth (166.75), but a fall on pommel horse may have made his Olympic chances a little dicey.

Still, Malone, Moldauer, Wiskus and Mikulak make up the most competitive team for the U.S. based on their Trials scores.

Mikulak had the highest score on floor (29.3) and second best on high bar (28.6).

At the Olympics, three men will compete on each apparatus in the team final and all three scores will count.

The U.S. men were fifth at the last two Olympics and are seeking their first Olympic team medal since 2008. Powerhouses Japan, China and Russia have made up every Olympic and World podium since 2016; Japan and China have been on the last 11.

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Sam Mikulak, Yul Moldauer, Brody Malone highlight U.S. Olympic men’s gymnastics team originally appeared on NBCSports.com