The Norman Transcript

National Sports

August 17, 2013

Mikulak in front of former Sooners at U.S. title meet

HARTFORD, Conn. — Sam Mikulak sprinted to the lead at the U.S. men’s gymnastics championships Friday night, riding a sublime routine on pommel horse to close in on his first national title.

Mikulak, a two-time NCAA all-around champion, had a score of 91.650. Jake Dalton was second, nearly three points behind. Alex Naddour was third followed by Joshua Dixon and Steven Legendre.

Danell Leyva, the bronze medalist in the all-around at the 2012 London Olympics, struggled all night and slipped to sixth. Defending national champion John Orozco was eighth in his first competition back from major surgery on his left knee.

Leyva and Orozco were the unquestioned leaders of the U.S. Olympic team last summer, but Mikulak, who just finished his junior year at Michigan, has surpassed them both.

Mikulak dominated at the NCAA championships in April and the gap between himself and the rest of the top American men has only grown this summer.

The 20-year-old from southern California lacks the intensity of some of his peers. From his spiky, just-so hair to the perpetual grin on his face, he is every bit the surfer.

Except, of course, when he’s in the gym. Then, he soars.

Mikulak’s elite career was nearly derailed when he broke both of his ankles in a meet in Puerto Rico in 2011. He healed in time to work his way onto the Olympic team and has spent the last 12 months putting himself in position to be the American to beat over the next quadrennium.

His night began solidly but didn’t turn spectacular until he reached the pommel horse on his fifth rotation. On an event where the U.S. men’s team has stumbled for nearly three decades, Mikulak glided over the apparatus, his legs whooshing back and forth with an elegance typically reserved for more polished international performers.

When his 15.2 score was posted, he joined Naddour — a pommel horse specialist — as the only athletes to top 14.5 on the event all night. It was all he needed to turn his lead into a chasm. In a sport where every tenth of a point is crucial, Mikulak’s 2.950 advantage over good friend Dalton is the gymnastic equivalent of a football team taking a 35-3 halftime lead.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
National Sports
  • Luke Donald shoots 66, takes lead at RBC Heritage

    HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Luke Donald believes he’s got the right game on the right course — and is ready to make up for so many near-misses at the RBC Heritage. Donald had an eagle and six birdies to shoot 66 on Saturday and take a ...

    April 20, 2014

  • Nets’ experience trumps Raptors in Game 1

    TORONTO — The Brooklyn Nets made a case for the important of playoff experience in their opening victory over the Toronto Raptors....

    April 20, 2014

  • Heat open quest for another title

    MIAMI — If the Miami Heat are going to watch their season and reign atop the NBA end at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats, then fates of the franchises will have to change in a hurry....

    April 20, 2014

  • Warriors beat Clippers, 109-105, in playoff opener

    LOS ANGELES — Klay Thompson scored 22 points, David Lee added 20 and the Golden State Warriors got Blake Griffin and Chris Paul in foul trouble to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 109-105 on Saturday in their playoff opener....

    April 20, 2014

  • Cardinals edge Nationals, 4-3

    WASHINGTON — Lance Lynn was sharper than he had had been all season, which made it all the more frustrating for him when he failed to make it out of the sixth inning....

    April 20, 2014

  • Teague leads Hawks past top-seeded Pacers in Game 1

    INDIANAPOLIS — Atlanta’s Jeff Teague demolished the Pacers’ grand playoff plan. As his teammates set up around the 3-point line, Teague simply blew through open lanes to the basket repeatedly. The Pacers didn’t have an answer....

    April 20, 2014

  • Stars limp home down 2-1

    DALLAS — Tyler Seguin’s week away from Dallas felt a little longer, probably because it included a pair of one-goal losses at Anaheim to start a first-round playoff series....

    April 20, 2014

  • Sooners advance to Super Six

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Oklahoma, Georgia and LSU advanced to the Super Six of the NCAA women’s gymnastics championships....

    April 19, 2014

  • Can the Heat flip the switch?

    MIAMI — LeBron James was walking down the hallway that the Miami Heat call “Championship Alley” a few minutes after last season’s NBA Finals, when he decided the time was right to send a message. It wasn’t for his fans....

    April 19, 2014

  • No April, May or June Madness in NBA

    AP National Writer ATLANTA — If the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks were in any other sport, they might have a glimmer of hope for winning a championship. The NBA? No way....

    April 19, 2014