Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Your P&G Championships Cheat Sheet: The All-Around

I can't understand why USAG didn't use the Charmin bear's sparkly butt as the logo for this event.

Kyle Shewfelt once said, "The thing about the year after the Olympics is that you really don’t need to be that great." Unfortunately, I suspect that those words will ring true in Hartford, Connecticut. By that, I mean we will see several great performances, but no single all-arounder will deliver panty-dropping routines across all 6 events. That said, I'm sure that many viewers, males and females alike, will be fighting the urge to take off their panties and fling them at their televisions. If American male gymnasts have one thing going for them, it's the hotness level.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let's take a look at my rankings of the boys…

1. Sam Mikulak

Oh, Sam, I pray to the gym gods every night on your behalf, and somehow, you still injure yourself. In the fall, Sam tore a muscle in his left calf, which prevented him from competing all-around for most of the collegiate season. But by April, he was back at it and won the all-around at the NCAA Championships with a score of 91.150. (The NCAA's scoring system is slightly different. They have a stick bonus, for instance.)

Shortly thereafter, Sam competed at the FIG Challenge Cup in Anadia, Portugal. Still competing slightly watered down routines, he did not receive scores that would qualify him for event finals at the World Championships. But he did take home bronze on floor (15.100) and gold on high bar (15.275).

Make It or Break It Routine: The place where Sam can really screw the pooch is on rings. As most hardcore gym fans know, it's one of his weaker events, but he has worked to improve it. Since last year, he has added two Maltese crosses to the routine, but during the NCAA season, they often looked like Maltlanches (somewhere between a Maltese and a planche). Starting off high, he slowly lowers his shoulders into the Maltese. We'll have to see how picky the American judges are… My guess: Not too picky.

Panty Dropper Routine: Parallel bars. Setting aside his muscled peach half (at the 0:22 mark), Sam's parallel bars are glorious. He takes everything as high as possible. His Sasaki (straddle 5/4 at the 0:36 mark) is stratospheric, and when he catches it at the last minute, he gives you a mini heart attack that ends in a swoon. He also shows shades of Li Xiaoshuang when he hops on his giant to handstand (at the 0:42 mark).

High Score of 2013: N/A
Low Score of 2013: N/A
Related: GymCastic's Interview with Sam Mikulak

2. Jake Dalton

I can't wait to scavenge Twitter for the best tweets about Jake Dalton. He isn't even on the television, and there are already some doozies.
Note to the world: You can't woo an Olympian via hashtags.

Anyway, in case you haven't been paying attention, 2013 has been a good year for Jake Dalton–both personally and gymnasticsally. He proposed to his girlfriend, and like almost any woman would (and many gay men, as well), Kayla Nowak said yes. On top of that, Jake won the all-around competition at the Winter Cup in February and the American Cup at the beginning of March.  At the French International in March, he won bronze on floor and silver on high bar, and one week later at Cottbus, he won gold on vault.


Jake's all-around wins came early in the season, and it has been roughly five months since we last saw him compete. So, we'll have to wait and see what he has in store for us. But based on his previous performance, here's what I think you can expect…

Make It or Break It Routine: Pommel horse. Duh. To his credit, Jake's working hard to up his difficulty on pommel horse, but his routine with a 5.0 difficulty score places him nearly a full point behind Sam Mikulak (5.9) and nearly a point and a half behind Danell Leyva (6.4). If Jake wants to stay in the all-around competition, he needs to keep those hips gyrating. (Jake Dalton's hips gyrating is a great mental picture, isn't it?)

Panty Dropper Routine: No question, Jake has always been seen as a floor and vault guy. I mean, he has tree trunks for legs,* but what people forget is that Jake also has watermelons for shoulders and biceps. Though he may not have Brandon Wynn's prowess on rings, Jake should be able to wallop both Sam and Danell on rings. In fact, the all-around competition could come down to rings. How poorly will Sam and Danell perform their rings sets? And can Jake leverage his strength on rings?

High Score: 89.398, American Cup
Low Score:  85.400, Winter Cup Day 1
Related: GymCastic's interview with Jake Dalton

*For the anal reader: I realize that jumping ability is largely determined by the stiffness and length of one's… Achilles. (Perv.)

3. Danell Leyva

Regardless of how Danell does at Nationals, little kids will beg for his autograph, and his papá will be clapping, yelling, fist pumping, and if we're lucky, maybe Yin will do a high kick or two.

Honestly, it's hard to guess how Danell will do in the all-around. 2013 has been a major pain in his culo. He finished third at the Winter Cup, sixth at the American Cup, and he withdrew from the Tokyo Cup due to a shoulder injury. He disappeared from competition for a few months, and when he returned in July, he won the U.S. National Qualifier. His all-around score of 87.000, however, is over two points lower than Jake Dalton's best (89.398) at the American Cup. If, by a stroke of luck, Danell does win the P&G Championships, it will be considered an underdog victory.

Make It or Break It Routine: Both pommel horse and rings could give Danell troubles. At the U.S. National Qualifier in July, Danell did not give Yin much to high kick about. In fact, from a numeric standpoint, Danell had digressed. When Danell had the flu at the American Cup, he scored a 14.566 on pommels and a 14.433 on rings. Four months later at the U.S. National Qualifier, Danell posted a 13.100 on horse and a 13.950 on rings. Nevertheless, Yin, always the loving father, didn't give Danell the Valeri Liukin death stare.

Panty Dropper Routine: High Bar. Duh. Sam Mikulak's Kolman is exciting, but whenever someone does two or more Kovacs-style releases, the crowd is going to cheer.

High Score of 2013: 87.000, U.S. National Qualifier
Low Score of 2013: 85.265, American Cup
Related: Catching up with Danell Leyva at the Winter Cup

4. Adrian de los Angeles

This year, Adrian de los Angeles has been the bridesmaid--never the bride. He finished second in the all-around at the Winter Cup, and he finished second in the all-around at the NCAA Championships. Undoubtedly, Adrian should be in the top three at Championships. In terms of his difficulty scores, he has no real weakness. At the Winter Cup, his lowest start score was a 5.6 on vault. Not too many gymnasts at Championships can say that their lowest D score is vault.

But if Adrian has one weakness, it is a lack of focus throughout the entirety of an exercise. If Adrian is going to make a mistake, it is most likely going to be on the dismount of his routine. (I feel like I'm going to jinx him by typing that, but it's true.)

By the way, if you've ever seen one of the Michigan Men's Gymnastics videos, it's most likely Adrian's brain child. Here's the Wolverines' promo video blooper reel:

High Score of 2013: 86.600, Winter Cup Day 2
Low Score of 2013: 80.650, Kyle Shewfelt Gymnastics Festival
Related: Adrian de los Angeles: "I think it's going to be a good year."

5. Eddie Penev 

Eddie Penev is better known for his work on floor and vault. He's the American equivalent of a Japanese gymnast, in that he can twist really, really, really fast. Maybe he can't twist as much as Shirai Kenzo because Shirai Kenzo's routine has more twists than a family size bag of pretzels. Plus, we're not entirely sure that Shirai Kenzo is human. However, Eddie has proven himself to be an all-around contender--at least in America. At the Winter Cup, Eddie finished fourth in the all-around, and at the NCAA Championships, he finished third behind Sam Mikulak and Adrian de los Angeles. So, if the top dogs falter,  I'd keep an eye on the ever-consistent Penev. He may just sneak onto the podium.

As I said, Eddie's specialty is floor. While competing for Bulgaria, he finished sixth on floor at the 2010 World Championships. Unfortunately, he has not had the results that he would like this year. At the NCAA Championships, he finished in second when he was the clear favorite to win gold, and at the Anadia Challenge Cup in Portugal, he finished sixth on the event, even though he had qualified first during prelims.

High Score of 2013: 85.350
Low Score of 2013: 83.800

Here are the details for the senior men:
  • Wednesday, August 14: Podium Training, 5-7:30pm ET, streamed online at
  • Friday, August 16: Day 1, 8-10pm ET, NBC Sports Network
  • Sunday, August 18: Day 2, 1-2:30pm ET, NBC
 And here's the current roster of competitors.


  1. Those Valeri Liukin death scares are frightening!

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