Thursday, June 21, 2018
Sports

Gymnast picks a good time for upset

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Gabby Douglas has impeccable timing.

The 16-year-old beat world all-around champion Jordyn Wieber for the first time Sunday night, winning the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials and the lone guaranteed spot for London.

Douglas, bolstered by a dazzling uneven bars routine, beat Wieber by a 0.1 points — 123.450 to 123.350 — after finishing a close second at last month's U.S. championships and the first night of trials Friday.

The scores were their combined all-around totals from both nights of trials competition.

Wieber, who won the all-around title at the world championships last year, later was named to the five-member team by a selection committee, along with McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Kyla Ross.

This is the strongest American team since 1996, one that will be not just favored but expected to bring home the second Olympic team gold. Maroney and Raisman were with Douglas and Wieber on the U.S. team that won the title at last fall's world championships.

Ross, 15, is a two-time U.S. junior all-around champion.

One gymnast who won't be headed to London, at least not to compete, is 2008 all-around gold medalist Nastia Liukin.

Liukin announced her comeback in October, hoping to become the first reigning Olympic champion to return to the Games since Nadia Comaneci in 1980. But desire and grit were no match for shoulder problems and a three-year layoff, and Liukin's glittering career sputtered to an end.

Attempting to get selected for the team on the strength of her uneven bars and beam performances, she struggled at nationals and the trials.

Liukin's chances effectively were dashed Sunday when she fell off the uneven bars, her signature event, attempting a release move. Then on her dismount, she took a step back after landing on the mat's edge.

She regrouped with a nice beam routine. As she walked off the podium, her father and coach, Valeri, greeted her with a kiss, and fans stood to cheer. Tears filled Liukin's eyes as she waved and said goodbye, to the crowd, her comeback and a career that includes five Olympic medals and four world titles.

"Thank you to the 18,000 people that gave me a standing ovation tonight," Liukin, 22, wrote on Twitter. "I will remember this moment for the rest of my life."

Men's gym team completed: Jonathan Horton is heading back to the Olympics with a bunch of rookies in tow. The two-time 2008 medalist was picked for the U.S. men's gymnastics team, joined by Jake Dalton and Sam Mikulak.

Danell Leyva of Miami, 20, and John Orozco, 19, automatically qualified for the five-man squad Saturday with their performances over two days at the trials.

Horton, 26, gives a veteran presence to the deepest U.S. team in recent memory. He helped the United States win a team bronze four years ago and got a silver medal on high bar. None of the other four team members are older than 20.

"Super excited to be doing this again," Horton wrote in a text message to the Associated Press. "I was worried, but I think this team is going to be great."

Mikulak, 19 and the 2011 NCAA all-around champion at Michigan, earned a spot despite spraining his left ankle on vault during the opening night of trials Thursday. He likely won't be able to do full routines on floor or vault for two weeks. He will join the rest of the team at training camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., from July 8-11.

Mikulak "has no doubts," he said, that his ankle will be 100 percent healed in time for the Games.

Dalton, 20 and the reigning NCAA all-around champion from Oklahoma, gives the U.S. team someone who can put up eye-popping scores on floor and vault.

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