Gymnast Mikulak walks tightrope over selection
U.S. gymnast Sam Mikulak (R) gets a hug from a teammate after it was announced he would only compete on one apparatus, the pommel horse, at the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials in San Jose, California June 30, 2012. (REUTERS/Mike Blake)
By Mark Lamport-Stokes
SAN JOSE, California, June 30 (Reuters) – Sam Mikulak faced an anxious wait overnight to see if he had gained Olympic Games selection after he was able to compete in only one event on the final day of men’s competition at the U.S. trials on Saturday.
The 19-year-old hurt his left ankle in his last routine on Thursday, the vault. Following a lengthy discussion with his coach Kurt Golder and medical experts, he took part in only the pommel horse on Saturday, earning a score of 14.400.
World parallel bars champion Danell Leyva and John Orozco gained the first two spots on the U.S. team and Mikulak hopes his superb opening day at the trials will help him secure one of the three remaining places, to be announced on Sunday.
“That always plays a part,” Mikulak, the 2012 U.S. parallel bars silver medalist, told reporters of his effort at the HP Pavilion on Thursday, when he was the most impressive gymnast of the day.
“Being consistent is never a bad thing and over the past few weeks they (the selectors) have been able to see that. I can hit my sets, I am reliable. I just hope they feel happy with all the performances I have been able to put on.
“It’s just an ankle sprain. I will be back in no time and hopefully stronger than ever. I will have plenty of time to be fully recovered if I am selected to go to London.”
Mikulak totaled a best-of-the-day 91.800 from his six routines on Thursday to close the gap, in third place, on Leyva and U.S. all-around champion Orozco in the overall standings.
However, he had to put ice on his left ankle after a painful finish on the vault and by the following day it had become worryingly swollen.
‘BLACK AND BLUE’
“It was puffed up like a balloon, black and blue,” Mikulak said. “And I was like, ‘Goodness, this isn’t good.’ So I got in the training room and kept doing a bunch of rehab and they brought it down quite a bit.
“In one day, they did so much but it just wasn’t enough. We are trying to keep my health and the best interests of the team.”
When Mikulak arrived at the HP Pavilion on Saturday morning, he had initial hopes of competing in four of the six routines on the last day of competition.
“Then they (his coaches) were like, ‘No we don’t want you to land your ankle at all. Maybe just pommel horse.’ I just had so much hope going into this day that I would be able to hit all my routines and have everyone go crazy.
“But then they decided it would be in my best interests, if they select me for the team, not to have any setbacks if I were to land any short dismounts.”
Mikulak, who claimed the 2011 NCAA all-around title as a freshman at University of Michigan, was ruled out of selection for last year’s world championships after breaking his ankles during a competition in Puerto Rico.
He was sidelined for several months and wore walking boots on both feet for protection while recovering.
“It hurts not being able to go out and perform,” Mikulak said of sitting out five of the six routines on Saturday. “Every time I go out there, it’s about putting on a show.
“I love all the fans that we were supporting me and I am disappointed they weren’t able to get the show they wanted from me. I live for the adrenalin and it sucked watching everyone else getting that. But there was nothing else I could so.”