Recent International Success Motivates Mikulak
As U.S. all-around champion Sam Mikulak prepares for a training trip in Germany and Italy, he told IG that winning gold, silver and bronze medals at the recent World Challenge Cup of Anadia has primed him for his title defense at the P&G (U.S.) Championships in August in Pittsburgh.
“Competing internationally is always a great experience,” said Mikulak, who placed first on high bar, second on floor exercise and third on parallel bars at the Challenge Cup, held May 29-June 1 in the Portuguese city. “I get another opportunity to put myself in a pressure situation, and as I get geared up for the P&G Championships, the more prepared I am for the pressure situations, the better. Plus it’s nice to be in such a refined state with all my routines this early going into P&Gs.”
Mikulak, who placed sixth all-around and fourth on high bar at the 2013 World Championships in Antwerp, said he was most pleased with his performance on high bar in Anadia. He won that apparatus title for the second consecutive year.
“The high bar gold medal was most satisfying because it was the one event where I had to defend my title,” he said. “It was my last opportunity to get a gold medal, and to end on a stick is the best way to go out.”
Mikulak said he was prepared to do one of two routines in the high bar final, but ultimately chose a more conservative one based on the performance of China’s Zhang Chenglong.
In qualifications, Zhang had the highest Difficulty score (6.90) of the field. Mikulak, top qualifier Marijo Možnik (Croatia) and Bence Talas (Hungary) each had a D note of 6.60 in qualifications.
“Going into high bar (final) I was deciding whether to do my more difficult 16.9 routine with a Cassina, or my easier 16.6 routine,” Mikulak said. “If Chenglong had hit his harder high bar set, I was going to do the Cassina, but when he fell, I knew I just had to hit a clean 16.6 routine, and that’s what I did.”
In Anadia, Mikulak also finished fifth in vault finals, but fell on pommel horse in qualifications for 26th place.
“My mistake on horse was just one of those freak accidents that you could never predict,” he said, “I never fall on my scissor work and so I just put it behind me.”
Mikulak said he decided against competing in Anadia on the sixth event, rings, because his shoulder was a little sore, and he wanted to focus on the events on which he had better medal prospects.
“I chose to do five events because I’ve been in all-around shape,” he said. “The more I do, the more experience I get and the better chance I have to medal.”
Mikulak said he does not plan to compete between now and the P&G Championships, but is looking forward to a training trip with German star Fabian Hambüchen in Germany and Italy.
“Any chance to train and see other gymnasts’ training styles is a great time to broaden my horizons and better myself as a gymnast,” Mikulak told IG.