GREENSBORO — The American Cup gymnastics championships at Greensboro Coliseum lived up to its name Saturday with Americans placing first and second in both the men’s and women’s competitions.
Yul Moldauer edged out teammate Sam Mikulak for the men’s gold medal by one one-thousands of a point with both athletes placing first in two individual events. China’s Yue Ma finished a distant third in the World Cup event.
As dramatic as the men’s competition was, the women’s result may have been even more significant.
Fifteen-year-old Leanne Wong, the 2018 junior all-around world champion, made her debut in a senior international event a winning one by outdistancing fellow American Grace McCallum with Canada’s Elsabeth Black placed third.
Considered by some as the “next big thing” in women’s gymnastics Wong took her first major step toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by winning two of her first three events, then sealing her victory with a poised performance in the floor exercise.
“It went really well,” Wong said after finishing with a score of 56.765, three tenths better than equally promising countrywoman McCallum. “My goal was to hit four for four, and I hit four for four events. So I was happy.”
Although she admitted to feeling some nerves in the moments leading up to her first senior event, Wong said they went away once she was able to get on the mat and start competing.
She didn’t have to wait long.
The confident teenager was the first gymnast to go on the day’s opening event. She responded to the challenge by posting the highest score on the apparatus, a 14.666. He also placed first on the balance beam.
Though she only placed fourth on the uneven bars, she performed a clean routine for a respectable score of 14.100.
McCallum, meanwhile, finished second on the vault, third on the uneven bars and second on the beam to stay close to Wong heading into the final rotation. Her score of 13.866 on the floor wasn’t high enough to challenge for the win.
It probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway, the way Wong hit her routine — which included two new moves she’d never before tried in competition.
“I just gave her a hug and said ‘I knew you could do it,’” Wong’s coach Armine Barutyan said. “It was awesome. It was a very good effort to finish the way she finished and just the whole day.”
In the men’s competition, Moldauer battled five-time national champion Mikulak through the entire six-event rotation on his way to earning his third straight American Cup title.
Mikulak got off to a strong start by winning on the floor exercise and pommel horse. He maintained his lead in the overall until a slip on the parallel bars led to a sixth-place finish on the apparatus. Moldauer, on the other hand, got stronger as the day went on, placing first on the vault and parallel bars to edge ahead of Mikulak.
He left the door open, however, with a five-place finish on the high bar with a score of 13.733. But even though Mikulak put together his highest-scoring routine of the event, earning a 14.966 on the bar, he fell just short of the championship.
“I didn’t do the math or anything,” Moldauer said. “I just told myself to go out there, hit my routine and whatever happens, happens. I’ve never been involved in one that close. That was crazy.
Moldauer finished with a score of 85.933. Mikulak finished at 85.931. Both were aided by the absence of Japan’s Kenzo Shirai, a two-time Olympic medalist, who withdrew with an ankle injury.
Despite losing by the slimmest of margins, Mikulak said he wasn’t disappointed.
“He had the better day overall,” Mikulak said of Moldauer. “You’ve go to give it to him, for sure. That’s just how it goes.”
All-around results – final
1. Yul Moldauer, Norman, Okla., 85.932
2. Samuel Mikulak, Colorado Springs, Colo., 85.931
3. Ma Yue, China, 84.465
4. Petro Pakhniuk, Ukraine, 82.864
5. James Hall, Great Britain, 82.698
6. Christian Baumann, Switzerland, 81.631
7. Bart Deurloo, Netherlands, 76.932
1. Leanne Wong, Overland Park, Kansas, 56.765
2. Grace Mc Callum, Isanti, Minn., 56.465
3. Elsabeth Black, Canada, 55.732
3. Mai Murakami, Japan, 55.732
5. Kim Bui, Germany, 54.199
6. Lu Yufei, China, 51.699
7. Sanna Veerman, Netherlands, 50.765
8. Celia Serber, France, 49.798
9. Lee Yunseo, Republic Of Korea, 47.86