Skip to content

Sam Mikulak rallies for repeat P&G Championships title (video)

Aug 24, 2014, 7:33 PM EST

PITTSBURGH — Sam Mikulak lost his grip and his bag, but never his confidence, and rallied to win his second straight all-around title at the P&G Championships on Sunday.

The spiky-haired gymnast, usually California cool, paced around the Consol Energy Center, from the competition floor to drug testing, late Friday night.

Hours earlier, he fumbled on parallel bars without a proper mixture of honey and chalk to start the P&G Championships. Mikulak, the defending champion, was in 24th place in the all-around after the first of 12 rotations.

He rallied over the next five, leaping to fourth place at the end of the first night of competition. But he was still 2.35 points behind the leader and needing to pass three of his 2012 Olympic teammates for the all-around title Sunday.

He encountered another worry later Friday night, though.

“I lost my [gym] bag,” Mikulak said. “I went back to stretch, and I was like, oh gosh someone took my bag.”

The bag contained his grips and other necessities to rally up the leaderboard in 36 hours. After fruitless calls, he finally found it.

Which was a bigger concern, climbing back from that deficit or tracking down the lost gym bag?

“Definitely finding my bag,” Mikulak said Sunday afternoon, with the benefit of hindsight.

Mikulak never lost faith that he would retain his title. His coach at the University of Michigan, Kurt Golder, reassured him after the frustrating Friday.

“Just make sure [Sunday] you do it one [routine] at a time,” Golder said. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself that you’ve got defend your title or anything.”

“Yeah, I know,” was Mikulak’s what-me-worry response.

So Mikulak went out Sunday and chopped away at 2012 U.S. champion John Orozco’s lead. He was 1.9 behind after parallel bars, scoring 1.9 points higher than Friday. He cut another seven tenths off on high bar with a 15.8 and another .75 on floor exercise (15.65).

With three events to go, he just needed to pick up two tenths per apparatus.

“I don’t know if he was, but between the coaches, we were looking at [the scoreboard],” Golder said. “He’s chipped away half of it after two events. Then it kept chipping away, getting closer and closer. At the end he had to nail his vault.”

He did, landing a Kasamatsu (with a hop) that he’s been performing since he was in high school.

In all, Mikulak scored 92.25 points Sunday after 88.4 on Friday.

“I had one of the greatest days of my life,” said Mikulak, who might also count the day earlier this year when he went bungee jumping from 400 feet high in Europe while training with German veteran Fabian Hambuechen.

Mikulak’s combined score, 180.65, beat Orozco (180.2). Orozco performed a vault Sunday with 1.2 less in difficulty than he did Friday and scored 1.05 fewer points. That’s what did him in.

Another Olympian, Jacob Dalton, finished third (179.85) after leading by 1.05 going into the final rotation. Dalton went on the dreaded pommel horse last and scored a not-surprising 13.1.

Mikulak leads World Championships team; analysis

Mikulak became the first man to win back-to-back U.S. all-around titles since Jonathan Horton in 2009 and 2010.

Golder said he’s never seen Mikulak come through under tougher circumstances, even during a decorated college career with three NCAA all-around titles.

“This was his toughest climb,” Golder said.

Mikulak’s path to this year’s championship was nothing like 2013, when his biggest failure came on the 12th and final event, pommel horse.

“The last thing someone said to him [before pommel horse] was, you could fall two times and still win,” Golder said. “Then he went out there and fell two times. I know it was the nerves that time.”

Mikulak still won by 2.9 points, but then he went to Worlds and struggled again on his final event, high bar, to finish sixth in the all-around.

This year, Golder and Mikulak said they’ve upgraded their start values and have even more difficulty to be added on pommel horse and parallel bars before Worlds in China in six weeks.

Both coach and gymnast mentioned they’re working toward catching Japanese great Kohei Uchimura, the four-time reigning World champion and the Olympic champion.

“[Mikulak] probably could have finished in the all-around second in the world [last year without struggling on high bar],” Golder said. “That’s about where he stands right now. This guy from Japan, Uchimura, you know he’s fantastic. That’s the target. That’s the one we’re chasing.”

Simone Biles awes judges, U.S. legend to repeat at P&G Championships

Latest Posts
  1. NBC Sports, Universal to air unprecedented U.S. ski, snowboard coverage this season

    Nov 26, 2014, 1:06 PM EST

    Ted Ligety Getty Images

    Full schedule of coverage across World Cups, Grand Prix events and World Championships.

  2. U.S. figure skaters officially bronze medalists, 50 years later

    Nov 26, 2014, 7:42 AM EST

    Vivian Joseph, Ronald Joseph Getty Images

    Sister-brother team had bronze medals, but the official results didn’t reflect that until Tuesday.

  3. Katie Ledecky faces decisions in 2015, 2016

    Nov 25, 2014, 10:46 AM EST

    Katie Ledecky Getty Images

    Scheduling conflicts, another new event?

  4. Rio Olympic commemorative coins to be issued

    Nov 25, 2014, 9:27 AM EST

    Rio Olympic coins

    Christ the Redeemer, Olympic motto honored on the coins.

  5. Michael Phelps back in the pool; Phelps, Ledecky win Golden Goggles

    Nov 24, 2014, 10:23 PM EST

    Michael Phelps Getty Images

    Phelps is working toward 2015 goals, a North Baltimore official said.

  6. Pat Quinn, who coached Canada to gold in 2002, dies at 71

    Nov 24, 2014, 11:25 AM EST

    Pat Quinn Getty Images

    Canada won its first men’s hockey Olympic gold in 50 years under Quinn.

  7. Claressa Shields, Marlen Esparza win World Boxing Championships

    Nov 24, 2014, 10:11 AM EST

    Claressa Shields Getty Images

    Olympic champion Shields was named the tournament’s best overall boxer.

  8. Viktor Tikhonov, Soviet Union Olympic hockey coach, dies at 84

    Nov 24, 2014, 9:17 AM EST

    Viktor Tikhonov Getty Images

    Tikhonov led the Soviets in the Miracle on Ice game.

  9. Sun Yang failed drug test, served three-month ban

    Nov 24, 2014, 8:42 AM EST

    Sun Yang Getty Images

    Sun tested positive for a substance he could have used legally if he filed paperwork with anti-doping officials.

  10. Ted Ligety expected back shortly after wrist injury (video)

    Nov 23, 2014, 8:38 PM EST

    Ted Ligety

    Video of how he suffered the injury was posted on Ligety’s social media.

  11. Maksim Kovtun rallies to win Trophee Bompard (video); Grand Prix Final picture

    Nov 22, 2014, 4:24 PM EST

    Maksim Kovtun Getty Images

    It’s unlikely a U.S. man will qualify for the Grand Prix Final.

  12. Renaud Lavillenie, Valerie Adams win IAAF Athlete of the Year awards

    Nov 21, 2014, 3:10 PM EST

    Renaud Lavillenie Getty Images

    This year’s winners came from unprecedented nations and events.

  13. Ashley Wagner trails, Denis Ten leads at Trophee Bompard (video)

    Nov 21, 2014, 2:24 PM EST

    Ashley Wagner AP

    Wagner could match a Michelle Kwan feat at the French event.

  14. Angelina Jolie showed Louis Zamperini scenes of ‘Unbroken’ on hospital bed

    Nov 21, 2014, 8:59 AM EST

    Angelina Jolie, Louis Zamperini AP

    “Unbroken” film about Olympian and World War II hero comes out on Christmas.

  15. Table tennis player shoves over referee after loss (video)

    Nov 20, 2014, 5:34 PM EST

    Table Tennis

    Young Dmitry Melnichenko lost the match, then lost his cool.

  16. Joss Christensen becomes ‘mountain man’ since Sochi Olympics

    Nov 20, 2014, 4:57 PM EST

    Joss Christensen Getty Images

    Olympic ski slopestyle champion uses a chainsaw every day.