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Winter (Cup) is Coming

Posted on 13 February 2018 by admin

2018 Winter Cup Preview

By Shelli Koszdin

Twelve U.S. Men’s Gymnastics National Team spots (three fewer than 2017) will be up for grabs this week in Las Vegas.  Six of the spots will be given to the athletes with the top six all around scores, and a further six will be chosen by the Men’s Program Committee (MPC).

According to the USAG selection criteria, Yul Moldauer is on the team if he participates in Winter Cup and makes the final (which only requires he accumulates enough National Team Points).  He is not required to compete in the all-around.

That leaves 11 spots to fill.  2017 World Team members Eddie Penev and Donnell Whittenburg are not competing at Winter Cup due to recent surgeries. If they petition to the team, and those petitions are accepted (which I predict will happen), that leaves 9 spots.

Six of those spots will go to the top all arounders. Last year it took about 85 points to get on the podium, around 82 to make the top six, and around 80 to be in the top 12. Let’s take a look at the recent scores of those on the start list to get an idea of who has a shot. It’s a very rough guide, as this data consists of one point and the athletes did not obtain these scores from identical judging panels.

Highest recent AA scores

  • Samuel Mikulak – 87.80
    Yul Moldauer – 87.15
    Donothan Bailey – 84.00
    Allan Bower – 83.70
    Alec Yoder – 83.60
    Robert Neff – 83.45
    Akash Modi – 83.30
    Colin Van Wicklen – 83.00
    Kanji Oyama – 82.80
    Shane Wiskus – 82.55
    Tristan Duran – 80.95
    Andrew Bitner – 80.60
    Kiwan Watts – 80.05

Of the athletes not listed (as they do not have an AA score from 2018), and based on past performance, Sean Melton, Trevor Howard, and Marvin Kimble have solid shots at the team if they compete all six events to the best of their abilities.

Look for Akash Modi and Alec Yoder to improve upon their scores. Modi achieved his 83.30 with a 12.95 PB at the Stanford Open. He’s probably 2 to 3 points better in the AA if he goes six for six. Yoder achieved his 83.6 with a score in the 13s on PH, a place where he could gain at least a point.

Sam Mikulak and Marvin Kimble have the difficulty and the talent to win it all, combined with the unpredictability to finish way out of it. They are also among the stronger athletes on high bar, an area where so far this quad the US has been weak. Some of the most consistent US men (Moldauer and Bower) are not strong on HB, which may cause the US men to live through some interesting times when it comes to team selection.

Alec Yoder is one of the rare athletes who can score very well on both pommel horse and still rings. He’s also decent on high bar, which may help him out if he somehow lands outside the top six.

The overall picture is one of a few clear leaders (Mikulak, Moldauer, Modi, Bower and probably Bailey) followed by a chase pack a little further back. That chase pack is fairly bunched up, so those in that group will need a little luck to make the team.

It remains to be seen if the US National Team will consist solely of all arounders, or if some specialists will be added in with an eye towards qualifying for individual spots in Tokyo. My guess is the US will go with the AA strategy, with the possible exception of Alex Naddour or Eddie Penev.

Even if they may not be in the picture for the US team, all the competitors are still out there trying to show they are the among the best in the country at what they do. Some hints on who to watch and where.

Specialists

  • Alex Diab – FX
    Kyle King – FX
    Sean Neighbarger – FX
    Brennan Pantazis – FX
    Alex Naddour – PH
    Brandon Ngai – PH
    Stephen Nedoroscik – PH
    Antonio Castro – PH
    Mike Wilner – SR
    Alex Naddour – SR
    Alex Diab – SR
    Kyle King – VT
    Hunter Justus – VT
    Alex Naddour – VT
    Michael Reid – PB
    Kiwan Watts – PB
    Johnny Jacobson – PB
    Robert Neff – HB
    Jalon Stephens – HB

Last but not least, don’t miss Nathan Tsuji of University of Washington. When he hits, he’s got some of the most elegance of the bunch. And he can really point his toes.

In years past, a “special bonus” system has been used at Winter Cup. It will not be used this year, and it’s a decision I agree with.  To my knowledge, the bonus system was never shown to improve international results, and the last thing USAG needs right now is confusing bonus system (especially E scores bonus – the opposite of transparency).

Moving forward, I would also like to see more explanation from the MPC about why decisions are made that are not explainable simply by looking at selection criteria. In a sport where the results are based on human judgement, where there are many people competing for a few spots, there will always be complaining and second guessing. Treating decisions and information like nuclear launch codes only makes that worse. Who knows, transparency may actually lead to greater harmony.

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2 Comments For This Post

  1. RDL Says:

    I wonder if Naddour is doing PH there? It would be interesting to see how routines compare and stack up.

  2. admin Says:

    No confirmation, but probably doing at least 3-4 events.

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