Sam Mikulak delivers for sixth U.S. title
The two-time Olympian was nearly flawless over two days of competition in Kansas City to take sixth national win
Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?
At 26, Sam Mikulak made history on Saturday (10th August 2019) at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Kansas City, and it wasn't even close.
The two-time Olympian became the first U.S. men's gymnast to win six national all-around titles since Makoto Sakamoto in 1970.
"I'm just hoping I can get to another one," Mikulak told NBC's Andrea Joyce afterward. "I'm just going to remember throwing in all my upgrades."
The win came with his largest margin of victory across his six titles, as he ended more than five points clear of 2017 U.S. champ Yul Moldauer in second place. 2016 Olympic alternate Akash Modi finished third.
Mikulak has always had the talent for international success but has faltered in the moments it has counted the most.
But this week in Kansas City, he delivered time and time again, hitting all twelve of his routines. That's something he's never accomplished in any of his previous national victories.
Mikulak finished with a two-day total of 174.150, while Moldauer earned 168.600. Modi was just behind at 168.250.
"[Hitting 12 routines] actually should be what I should remember most," he said to Joyce. "That honestly shows that I'm getting to be a lot more comfortable out in this pressure situation."
"You've got to fail a lot of times and learn from those failures," he added.
In addition to the all-around crown, Mikulak picked up titles on the floor exercise, pommel horse, parallel bars, and horizontal bar. Alex Diab took the title on the still rings, while Shane Wiskus took top honors on the vault.
"Right now, my mindset is on Worlds," Mikulak said when Olympic Channel asked him about goals for the year ahead. "I'm just trying to make sure I watch all the international competitions. I see the Russians and the Chinese and Japanese, all the big skills they're throwing. I'm just trying to live up to those expectations."
Though the U.S. men's team for the 2019 World Championships won't be named until September, Mikulak can already start to make plans for his trip to Stuttgart.
"I think this was exactly the competition I needed going into Worlds," he said.
Those Worlds will be the opportunity for Team USA to book their spot at the next Olympics.
That’s something he’s trying avoid when the Tokyo 2020 Games kick off in just under a year.
“I don’t have anything I’m second guessing, no training plan that I think I should have been doing,” Mikulak said of his approaching in this third Olympic cycle “I’ve found a rhythm. I’ve really been able to perfect everything about my training leading up to these big competitions."
“I’m a believer in Sam Mikulak right now,” Jonathan Horton told the Olympic Channel in Kansas City.
Horton was Mikulak's Olympic teammate at the London 2012 Olympics. “I think he’s going to have some of the greatest gymnastics of his life, leading up to the Olympics.”
Six for Biles coming up
With Mikulak having secured his sixth U.S. title, Simone Biles will attempt to match the feat Sunday night. The duo have won titles at five of the same U.S. Championships (2013-16, 18), previously.
That sixth title is something no woman has accomplished since Clara Schroth Lomady in 1952.
In the first night of competition, Biles found herself, once again, at the top of the leaderboard. But errors on floor exercise and the uneven bars kept her from feeling satisfied.
"I feel like I compete for perfection," Biles said, "so whenever I don’t do that, it really irritates me."
Irritated or not, perfection wasn’t necessary Friday. She leads by nearly two points over newcomer Sunisa Lee. 2017 World silver medalist Jade Carey is currently third.
Though Biles’ final ranking likely seems familiar to gymnastics fans, two elements Friday night did not: in the first rotation, she became the first woman to attempt a triple-twisting, double back on the floor exercise but bounced out of it and put her hands. She finished the night on a high note, nailing her double-double dismount off the beam.
Biles plans to attempt at least the triple-double Sunday night.
“I’ll come back Sunday,” she said, “and hopefully, it’ll go better.”
Stay with Olympic Channel for more action and reaction from the championships in Kansas City, online and on our social media accounts.
And don't miss our exclusive new original series 'All Around'. The first episode is available now.