Malone Takes Sweeping Lead at U.S. Nationals, Bonus or Not

Brody Malone

Though bonus was a big factor in how the rankings ended up playing out in the first night of senior men’s competition at U.S. Championships last night, it didn’t matter much for Brody Malone, who relied on clean, consistent gymnastics to finish his first night separated by more than three points ahead of the rest of the field, with or without bonus.

Malone leads the field with an 88.942, which is 3.462 points ahead of second-place Asher Hong, competing in his first national competition as a senior. But without the bonus (given to athletes as a way to reward higher-difficulty skills that are inherently riskier and which the athletes would otherwise be less likely to perform), while the rankings below Malone shift pretty drastically, he actually increases his lead to 3.55 points, with an 86.750 to Yul Moldauer’s bonus-free 83.200.

Starting on rings, Malone performed what is a pretty low-difficulty routine for him well enough, he hit a very strong Kaz 1½ on vault, looking just slightly off directionally with a hop to earn a 14.45, and he did beautiful work on p-bars. His work on both high bar and floor was very strong, getting him to first- and second-place finishes on these events, and while some of his floor landings could use some tidying up – which held his execution back a bit – his skills overall look so solid and dependable. To cap off his night, he hit one of his better routines on pommel horse, with no major mistakes or even slight hesitations there, getting him a third-place finish.

Hong ranked second with an 85.480 with bonus, though drops slightly to third with an 83.000 without the additional help. He got off to a massive start on vault, where he scored a 16.630 (1.78 bonus) for his tsuk full-in double tuck. It’s one of the most difficult vaults being done in the world right now, and he followed it up with an equally difficult Kaz 2½, making him the only gymnast who has competed two 6.0-rated vaults this year. The latter came up a bit shy in rotation and is definitely at risk of being downgraded, and he could use a little clean-up on both, but it’s very impressive work, especially given his age.

Vault aside, Hong had pretty great routines, including an impressive combination of high difficulty and mostly brilliant execution on floor to top the field there, and he looked super solid on both rings and p-bars, but his weakest events – pommel horse and high bar – both got to him here. On pommels, he struggled a bit throughout with form breaks in addition to falling, while on high bar, he started his routine with a hard fall very early on the Kolman, though I was glad to see him get back up and finish strong with no other major issues.

Donnell Whittenburg placed third with an 84.774 with bonus, picking up a significant amount thanks to his difficulty on floor, rings, and vault. However, without the bonus, he came in at just an 81.950, falling to ninth place. This is largely because of his lower difficulty on his weaker events – pommels, p-bars, and high bar, though he hit all three relatively well here – but also due to a rough floor routine.

One of his key apparatuses, Whittenburg put his hands down on his opening front double full to double front and then again on his arabian double front half-out, in addition to some otherwise hoppy landings. Thankfully, he got over that quickly enough to come back with the best rings routine in the field by a mile, and he hit a super powerful tsuk full-in on vault with a bounce to the side on the landing, though he looked great in the air.

In fourth, with or without bonus, was Shane Wiskus (84.423 officially, 82.950 with bonus removed). It was an okay meet for Wiskus, who started with clean work on his Kaz 1½ and in a mostly beautiful p-bars set, though he started to lose focus a bit after that, beginning on high bar. He was a bit rushed there, with a couple of his releases barely scraping by and his Tak full finished under the bar, and he also had some weak landings on floor, coming up shy of an execution score we’d usually expect from him. He continued to be plagued by some form issues on pommels making him look a bit off there, but he finished strong on rings and should be happy to have made it through his day without any falls, though I hope he can tighten up a bit to show more of what he’s capable of on day two.

Maybe it was a little surprising to see Moldauer down in fifth place with an 84.276 after he’s spent the past five years as one of the leaders of the national team, but unlike a lot of the guys here who were trying to impress with difficulty here, his focus was on hitting clean, leaving behind some of the harder skills he tried out at classics a few weeks ago. When you remove everyone’s bonus, he jumps up to second place with an 83.200, showing that his “simpler” but cleaner work is still going to add major value to the U.S. team at worlds.

It wasn’t Moldauer’s best day, with little things on almost every routine holding him back slightly, including on all of his best events – floor exercise, pommel horse and parallel bars, with a fall on the latter. I think overall, his gymnastics looks tight and strong, and that’s going to be what keeps him afloat this season, but I do think the lack of consistency this year – especially on his key events where the team will need to rely on him most – is something that needs attention. Again, he’s good enough that he can rank second with a fall, so the situation isn’t dire and he’ll be at worlds pretty much no matter what, but a fall-free competition could be helpful in his preparation.

Rounding out the top eight in the official standings are Fred Richard in sixth with an 83.880, Colt Walker in seventh with an 83.846, Ian Lasic-Ellis in eighth with an 82.950, Taylor Burkhart in ninth with an 82.573, and Khoi Young, who is dealing with an injury and not at a hundred percent, in 10th with an 82.444. But again, when you remove the bonus here, quite a few of these standings shift, with Richard dropping all the way to 11th, while the rest of the guys climbed, including Lasic-Ellis – who had no bonus added to his scores – ending up fifth, Walker in sixth, Young in seventh, and Burkhart in eighth.

One of the most exciting additions to the senior national field this year, Richard had a few mistakes throughout his day, including several mistakes in addition to a fall on pommels, a few rushed skills on high bar, and some short landings on floor, where he opened with a double double half-out, but thanks to the difficulty bonuses, he still managed to finish second on high bar and third on floor.

Among the specialists finishing in the top three on each event, Ian Skirkey was first on pommels with a 15.743 (a 14.55 without bonus), ahead of world champion Stephen Nedoroscik in second with a 15.693 (a 14.7 without bonus), while Curran Phillips finished first on p-bars with a 16.999 (a 15.35 without bonus) ahead of Blake Sun in second with a 15.992 (also a 15.35 without bonus), and Alex Diab was second on rings with a 15.245 (a 14.35 without bonus).

Day 1 Rankings – With Bonus

1. Brody Malone 88.942
2. Asher Hong 85.480
3. Donnell Whittenburg 84.774
4. Shane Wiskus 84.423
5. Yul Moldauer 84.276
6. Fred Richard 83.880
7. Colt Walker 83.846
8. Ian Lasic-Ellis 82.950
9. Taylor Burkhart 82.573
10. Khoi Young 82.444
11. Dallas Hale 81.850
12. Riley Loos 81.504
13. Garrett Braunton 81.222
14. Landen Blixt 79.650
15. Cameron Bock 79.550
16. Isaiah Drake 79.200
17. Daniel Simmons 78.250
18. Evan Hymanson 78.050
19. Michael Artlip 77.900
20. Kameron Nelson 77.729
21. Jeremy Bischoff 77.100
22. Garrett Schooley 76.950
23. Toby Liang 76.650
24. Matt Cormier 76.569
25. Colin Flores 76.400
26. Taylor Christopulos 75.800
27. Joshua Karnes 75.755
28. Asher Cohen 73.600
29. Anthony Koppie 72.450
30. Landon Simpson 72.000
31. Cole Partridge 70.800
32. Maxim Bereznev 70.050
33. Caleb Melton 68.666

Day 1 Rankings – Without Bonus

1. Brody Malone 86.750
2. Yul Moldauer 83.200
3. Asher Hong 83.000
4. Shane Wiskus 82.950
– Ian Lasic-Ellis 82.950
6. Colt Walker 82.900
7. Khoi Young 82.200
8. Taylor Burkhart 82.100
9. Donnell Whittenburg 81.950
10. Dallas Hale 81.850
11. Fred Richard 81.300
12. Riley Loos 80.800
13. Garrett Braunton 80.700
14. Landen Blixt 79.659
15. Cameron Bock 79.550
16. Isaiah Drake 79.200
17. Daniel Simmons 78.250
18.  Evan Hymanson 78.050
19. Michael Artlip 77.900
20. Kameron Nelson 77.500
21. Jeremy Bischoff 77.100
22. Garrett Schooley 76.950
23. Toby Liang 76.650
24. Colin Flores 76.400
25. Taylor Christopulos 75.800
26. Joshua Karnes 75.650
27. Matt Cormier 75.450
28. Asher Cohen 73.600
29. Anthony Koppie 72.450
30. Landon Simpson 72.000
31. Cole Partridge 70.800
32. Maxim Bereznev 70.050
33. Caleb Melton 68.300

Article by Lauren Hopkins