2012 Olympics: 5 Things Visa Championships Revealed About US Men's Gymnastics

Robin JutkiewiczCorrespondent IIIJune 9, 2012

2012 Olympics: 5 Things Visa Championships Revealed About US Men's Gymnastics

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    The U.S. Visa National Championships have come and gone for the men. With down-to-the-wire surprises and a few less than exemplary moments, 2012 has verified one thing at least: The field of competitors for the Olympic team is worthy and ready to compete against the rest of the world.

    After Day 1 of competition, the leaderboard stacked up with Danell Leyva in the No. 1 spot and Steve Legendre in eighth place. In between were John Orozco, Sam Mikulak, Chris Brooks, Jonathan Horton, Jake Dalton and Glen Ishino. Four points separated first from eighth.

    Day 2 brought a new arrangement, with Orozco narrowly grabbing gold, followed by Leyva and Mikulak. With the strength of the top two and the international experience of fourth-place winner Horton, the U.S. team will be a force to be reckoned with.

    Barring injury, it is a lock for Orozco and Leyva, but remains anyone’s game for the three remaining positions. Horton should join the guys in London, as well as Mikulak, Dalton and Brooks. That adds up to six extremely strong potential members for a five-member team.

    According to USA Gymnastics, only the top two all-around gymnasts with scores combined from the Visa Nationals and the Olympic Trials will be automatically named to the Olympic team.

    National Coordinator Kevin Mazeika has a huge decision to make as to the rest of the team and from the performances at the Visa Nationals, not an easy one.

    Orozco is the new U.S. Nationals champion, with Leyva right on his heels. Don't worry Olympic fans, you'll see them both in London. Guaranteed. As for the what else the Visa Nationals taught us? Take a look at five noteworthy items. 

Injuries Can Actually Work in Your Favor

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    Injuries can even bring you a national title and John Orozco can attest to this fact.

    Orozco’s rise in the world of competitive gymnastics was that of a NASA shuttle until a year ago. Beginning at the age of eight, his coaches recognized his talent almost immediately. By 2007 he was bringing home gold at the Jr. Olympic level.

    On his maiden outing as a senior at last year’s Visa Nationals, tragedy struck on vault. Orozco tore his right Achilles tendon in prelims. Often, this type of injury can cripple an athlete’s career, but not this kid's.

    Unable to train on events like floor or vault while rehabilitating his leg, Orozco seized the opportunity to turn his weaker events (pommel horse and still rings) into two of his strengths. This is good news for the Olympic team, as pommel is considered the albatross around Team USA’s neck.

    Orozco is definitely needed on that event and now the reigning U.S. National Title holder can set his plane reservation. Expect to see him in the Millennium Dome this summer and if all continues to go well, atop the award podium.

Danell Leyva Didn’t Lose: He Got Beat

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    On Day 1 of the Visa Nationals, Danell Leyva had control of the competition. Halfway through Day 2, it was a done deal.

    Oops, on the last of 12 events John Orozco snatched the lead away by .050. Leyva suddenly had to stand by and congratulate the now U.S. National champion.

    Nonetheless, Leyva is headed to the 2012 London Games. With the combination of the young man’s intensity and his step-dad/coach’s antics that lean toward comic relief, this pair will realize their Olympic dream.

    Leyva still needs to get through the Olympic Trials and most likely will once again provide sky-high excitement, but his road is clear. Leyva will dismount in London to give the Japanese and Chinese all-arounds a run for their money.

    First, he must wrap his head around squandering a two-point lead at Visa Nationals. No worries, he’ll use it to his advantage as the tale unfolds.

Jonathan Horton Proves Age and Experience Count

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    Jonathan Horton may be 26 years old, but he remains in world-class shape. With 17 National Championship medals under his belt, Horton is back to claim a spot on what may be his final Olympic team.

    Horton attacked each apparatus with the gusto of a 16-year-old. His only major misstep was a heel out of bounds on his final tumbling pass on floor, finishing in fourth place overall.

    Horton should be on his way to a second Olympics. He must however repeat Day 2’s performance come the end of June at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

    Don't count this senior out.

Sam Mikulak Can Play with the Big Boys

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    University of Michigan star Sam Mikulak not only proved he should be part of the team that heads to the 2012 Olympic Games, he has the stuff to take on the Japanese in July.

    Scoring a 92.400 on Day 2, Mikulak pushed past Olympian Jonathan Horton to take the all-around bronze. Take a look at his still rings routine and you’ll see why this man deserves a team jacket.

Chris Brooks and Jake Dalton Continue to Battle for the Fifth Spot

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    Talk about a battle! Chris Brooks and Jake Dalton parried over two days to end up in a tie for the vital fifth place at the Visa Nationals.  While Brooks made uncharacteristic errors on his events, Dalton rose to the occasion with clean lines and stuck landings.

    What should National Team Coordinator Kevin Mazeika do with these two? It appears the U.S. Olympic Trials will most likely tip the scale to one or the other’s favor.

    Both gymnasts will need to put up their A+ game at the Olympic Trials in hopes to convince Mazeika one has more to contribute over the other.

    Either way, it will be a contest worth watching. 

     

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