Malone is heading for a second consecutive gymnastics title in the United States

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Brody Malone competes on high bar during the U.S. Gymnastics Championships on Saturday August 20, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

PA

Brody Malone won his second national gymnastics title on Saturday night to cement his status at the top of the U.S. men’s program with the Paris Olympics less than two years away.

Malone, 22, posted a two-day total of 176.950, more than five points ahead of longtime national team member Donnell Whittenburg in second and teenager Asher Hong in third.

A first-time Olympian last summer and bronze medalist on high bar at the world championships last fall, Malone quickly established himself as the standard-bearer for American men, a role he accepted after the retirement of three-time Olympian Sam Mikulak. after the Tokyo Games.

“It was never my intention to come in and take Sam’s place,” Malone said. “It just happened. I don’t want (the pressure of it) to affect how I approach my gymnastics.

It’s not.

Malone wasn’t as clean on Saturday night as he was Thursday when he took a huge lead over the rest of the field, but that didn’t matter.

Spectacular on high bar – even with a minor error – and steady and efficient everywhere else, Malone competes with an unflappable poise. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if he’s in the middle of a major encounter or if he’s just riffing at the end of practice.

Men’s High Performance Director Brett McClure called Malone’s steely demeanor a mirage.

“He’s a fighter,” McClure said. “He’s one of those guys where even if you’re five points ahead, it’s not enough.”

Malone’s triumph automatically earned him a place in the 2022 World Championship squad. He will be joined in Liverpool, England, this fall by a resurgent Whittenburg.

The 28-year-old, a four-time World Championship squad member but never an Olympian, considered retiring at the end of 2021. He ultimately decided to continue, saying his body was too healthy for him can move on to the next chapter. of his life.

Encouraged somewhat by a bonus system designed to reward gymnasts for attempting more difficult elements, the mighty Whittenburg posted the top score on fixed rings and took second place on vault.

He always seemed destined to have to sweat World Championship team selection camp in October until Hong saw a largely brilliant encounter end with a sloppy set on the high bar that brought him down. from second to third, allowing Whittenburg to exhale for once and not wait. a selection process that did not always go his way.

Whittenburg’s trip to England barely seemed possible a year ago. Several factors played a role in his decision to continue. Back home in Baltimore during the winter, his mother Sheila’s advice kept coming back to him.

“My mom says, ‘You know, as long as you can keep going, you might as well, because as soon as you’re done, you’re done,'” Whittenburg said.

He is not. And Paris remains largely on the table.

While Whittenburg nears the end of his elite career, Hong’s is just beginning.

Still, the 18-year-old, who will join Malone at Stanford when classes begin at the end of September, provided a compelling case for him to join his future England team-mate as well. Hong took first place on vault, second on floor and third on rings.

Hong’s coach, Tom Meadows, attributed Hong’s shaky high bar to a mix of nervousness and exhaustion, a learning experience for a young gymnast in his first senior national meet.

“At the end of the (high bar) routine, he just couldn’t move his body, he was exhausted,” Meadows said. “And, you know, it’s the experience. It is experience, it is youth. So he has to go back to the gym and we have to learn from that and move on.

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