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Gymnastics Olympic Trials 2012: What Sam Mikulak Reveals About US Men's Team

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 28:  Sam Mikulak competes on the rings during day 1 of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials at HP Pavilion on June 28, 2012 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Avi Wolfman-ArentCorrespondent IIDecember 7, 2016

There are two kinds of upsets at U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials.

In the first kind of upset, favorites wobble, waver and finally collapse, leaving some even-keeled yeoman-type atop the podium—stunned grin and all.

In the second kind of upset, an emerging talent breaks from under the canopy of favorites to signal a new, more competitive standard.

Sam Mikulak's surprise lead after Day 1 of the men's all-around was the second kind of upset—and that means big things for the men's gymnastics team entering London.

The headliners entering Trials Thursday were 20-year-old Danell Leyva and 19-year-old John Orozco.

Leyva, the defending national all-around champion entering 2012, had ceded his title to the precocious Orozco less than a month earlier at Visa Nationals.

Levya wanted his crown back at U.S. Trials. Orozco was out to prove his staying power.

Young, hungry and dripping with talent, Orozco and Leyva looked set to rule the American men's gymnastics scene well beyond London.

Michigan freshman Sam Mikulak, 19, finished third at the aforementioned national meet and seemed a nice complement to the top two. He'd be a good third wheel in what was destined to become the Leyva-Orozco era of American men's gymnastics.

That is until Thursday.

The oft-injured Mikulak, who missed a shot at the 2011 world championship team because of lingering ankle woes, surged past Orozco and Leyva with a stunning rotation that featured masterwork on parallel bars and high bar.

Orozco and Leyva were plenty good. They just weren't equal to Mikulak.

Now the deepest men's gymnastics squad in decades has a Big Three to lead it, and the team's medal prognosis shifts from contention to...something greater.

China and Japan are still the class of the world, but Team USA is lurking, growing and, if things break right, perhaps ready to do what Sam Milulak has already done.

Trials upset today, team upset tomorrow.

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