Top male gymnasts to watch at U.S. Olympic trials
Paul Hamm's broken hand has been the talk of men's gymnastics. If he's healed from surgery in time for Beijing and feels 100 percent, Hamm will petition his way onto the team. And that's a good thing for the remaining U.S. men.
Hamm, the defending Olympic all-around champion, is strong in all six events, which means it will be necessary to take fewer specialists to Beijing (instead of two specialists, the team will bring one Paul Hamm). That opens a spot for an additional all-arounder. But unlike the women's squad, the men's team is wide open and there is no time for anyone, including these five hopefuls, to slack off at the trials.
Coached by: Miles Avery
Home gym: Ohio State University
Strongest events: Floor
Achilles' heel: Consistency
Breakdown: Hamm is strongest on floor, which he won at nationals, but is also a strong specialist on the four events in which he competes (floor, vault, pommel horse and high bar). Hamm also brings experience. He competed at both the 2000 and 2004 Olympics and was the high scorer on vault and high bar during the U.S. team's 2004 silver-medal run.
Coached by: Mark Williams
Home gym: University of Oklahoma
Strongest events: Floor, high bar
Achilles' heel: Pommel horse
Breakdown: Horton, who finished fourth in the all-around at the last world championships and second at nationals, has made a name for himself in the international community. Likely to be the second all-around athlete selected after Paul Hamm (provided Hamm is healthy), Horton will also attempt to earn an individual all-around berth. In a 6-5-4 format, Horton will be a huge boost to the U.S. team. His weakest event, pommel horse, is a nonissue. It's one of the strongest events for the Hamm brothers, and Alexander Artemov performs one of the most beautiful pommel horse routines in the world.
Age: 27 (he turns 28 on June 26)
Coached by: Vitaly Marinitch
Home gym: U.S. Olympic Training Center
Strongest events: Rings
Achilles' heel: Consistency
Breakdown: After winning the all-around competition at nationals in 2007, Durante, a 2004 Stanford grad, looked to be the sport's next great thing. But he's been inconsistent over the past year, finishing fourth at both the 2008 Winter Cup Challenge and last month's Visa Championships. When he hits his routines, Durante is good enough to win any all-around event he enters, especially when Paul Hamm is absent from the lineup. But his talent is not what will hold him back. The selection committee wants to see consistent performances and confidence. For that reason alone, the trials will mean as much for Durante as anyone.
Coached by: Kevin Mazeika
Home gym: Houston (Texas) Gymnastics Academy
Strongest events: Vault, rings
Achilles' heel: Floor
Breakdown: Bhavsar has been coming on strong, to the surprise of many. Most folks thought he would retire two years ago, after a string of poor performances, but he's been performing well in the months leading up to U.S. team selection. Although he may not be used in all six events, Bhavsar has the ability to compete in all six events if needed, and would add much-needed depth on pommel horse, rings and vault. An alternate at the 2004 Olympics, Bhavsar also has the experience of knowing what to expect in Beijing, and is well-acquainted with the frustration of life as an alternate. Now he just has to prove to the selection committee that an old gymnast can still learn new tricks.
How the team is selected
The top two men in the all-around (based on combined results between the Visa Championships and trials) will automatically be named to the team, provided they placed in the top three of six events. The remainder of the team (four additional athletes, plus alternates) will be named by July 1.
A 6-5-4 format equates to six gymnasts on the team, five compete on each apparatus and the four highest scores count. A 3-up, 3-count format applies to the final team competition. Each squad has three gymnasts compete on each apparatus and all three scores count.
Alyssa Roenigk is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
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