HARTFORD, Conn. — Sam Mikulak is a psychology major at Michigan mostly because he enjoys trying to figure people out.
Even on the day he accepted the mantle as the next great American gymnast, the breezy kid from southern California discovered he remains a work in progress.
Staked to such a massive lead he needed only to remain upright on pommel horse to capture the U.S. men’s all-around title Sunday, Mikulak told himself it would be OK if he eased off the gas.
“I thought that was going to make it easy,” Mikulak said. “I think it just made me lazy.”
And gave him plenty to think about as he prepares to take on the best in the world.
Twice Mikulak found himself sloppily cleaning up his own mess on pommels, and while he still had little trouble capturing the biggest title of his blossoming career, it was the one routine he failed to nail over two practically flawless days that will stick with him.
“Next time, I think I’ll just keep the edge,” Mikulak said.
Consider it a warning shot.
The 20-year-old established himself as a serious threat to reach the podium at the world championships in Belgium after putting together one of the most dominant performances in a championship that is five decades old.
Mikulak’s total of 181.400 points was nearly 3 points ahead of Alex Naddour and would have been substantially higher if not for that one last slipup.
In a way, that might not be a bad thing. The miscue gives Mikulak’s coach Kurt Golder plenty to work on with his star pupil as he prepares for a trip to Belgium in six weeks.
“This definitely means more pommel horse in the gym,” Mikulak said with a laugh. “It’s something you’ve got to push toward.”