St. Louis — Baltimore gymnast Donnell Whittenburg (Edgewood) finished in fourth place at the U.S. Olympic team trials Saturday night in St. Louis but was not named to the five-man roster.
Whittenburg, who was fifth after the first day of competition Thursday, finished with a score of 355.525, placing him ahead of selections Alex Naddour and John Orozco. Sam Mikulak (362.750), Chris Brooks (358.075) and Jake Dalton (356.525), who finished 1-2-3, were the other three choices.
The selections are based on the results from four days of events: June 3 and 5 at the national championships in Hartford, Conn.; and Thursday and Saturday's Olympic trials. Whittenburg, who was the only gymnast to finish in the top three in three events Saturday, placed fifth at the U.S. championships.
Naddour and Brooks, alternates on the 2012 Olympic team, will join Mikulak, Dalton and Orozco in Rio de Janeiro in August. Three noncompeting alternates will be named to the team.
Mikulak, a four-time national champion, easily posted the highest all-around score through four rounds of qualifying. He was followed by Brooks, at 29 the oldest competitor in the field. Brooks put together six more steady rotations Saturday night and finished the selection process without the kind of hiccups that have dogged him throughout his career.
Orozco returns to the Olympics as a specialist after a trying stretch that included the death of his mother and a second Achilles tendon injury last year.
The Americans are still smarting from an ugly fifth-place finish in London four years ago, imploding in the final after easily topping qualifying. USA Gymnastics officials blamed part of the problem on fatigue and moved trials up two weeks from 2012 to give the team a bit of a breather before final preparations for Rio begin.
Though the committee combined the scores of nationals and trials to try and get a big-picture view of the state of the program, the truth is that the last month is really just the final steps in a lengthy selection process. The men's team has largely been static at the top since London, with Mikulak ripping off four straight national titles and the core group remaining intact during a run that included a team bronze at the 2014 world championships but also another fifth-place finish at 2015 world championships last fall, a meet Mikulak and Dalton both missed because of injury.
The U.S. will head to Rio at full strength, and with something resembling momentum. While Mikulak's spot seemed assured months ago, the group of six to eight gymnasts behind him are in some ways interchangeable — even Brooks conceded that any combination would post a team score within a point either way — leaving the committee with a bevy of options. Officials stressed that the biggest factor was consistency and whom they can trust under the pressure of a three-up, three-count team final.
A plane ticket to Brazil there for the taking, the competitors did not shrink from the moment. If anything, they embraced it.
Outside of Mikulak's typical early-meet flub — he slipped off high bar during the first rotation — glaring mistakes were few and far between. Brooks stayed on pommel horse, easily his weakest event, and surviving it intact seemed to energize him. When he drilled his high-bar set, he screamed after sticking the landing.
Dalton, who maintained that he could have competed in Glasgow's worlds despite a shoulder injury but instead was left off and underwent surgery instead, overcome a so-so performance in nationals. Naddour has long been the best American on pommel horse but has added solid skills elsewhere in hopes of making him more valuable.
The five celebrated under balloons, joining arms and clutching roses in celebration. Next stop: Rio.