U.S. Men Win Pan Ams Gold, Lead Worlds Qualifications

Team USA

The 2022 Pan Am Championships wrapped up on Sunday evening with a hard-fought gold medal for the U.S. men, who overcame a number of falls to push back against Brazil by a little over a point.

Coming into the final, the U.S. was the clear favorite for gold, having led qualifications by over five points to not only lead the field going into the final, but also to qualify to world championships as the top team from the region. But while moving to a three-up three-count team final proved to present its challenges to the team – which is still a relatively young and inexperienced one despite three of its members competing in Tokyo last summer – it was overall a promising competition, especially seeing the kinds of scores that these guys are capable of internationally.

The men started out brilliantly on floor, where Yul Moldauer was close to his very best in every aspect of his routine, from his form to his landings and everything in between. Colt Walker opened the rotation with a stunning performance, and Riley Loos was equally good, with especially excellent twisting passes in his set. On pommels, Loos was a little weak in some of his form and had an issue with the handstand into his dismount, dropping down out of it to score quite a bit lower than he is capable of, but with Brody Malone starting the rotation with a hit and Moldauer – the Pan Ams pommel horse champion – ending it with an excellent routine, the team had no problem holding onto a massive lead going into rings.

Both Malone and Loos were strong on this apparatus, and though it isn’t a blowout event for the U.S., both brought in strong scores to increase the team’s lead. Moldauer, however, was uncharacteristically all over the place in this routine, missing positions on a number of elements and then falling out of a handstand near the end. Though he’s not a rings guy, per se, he’s usually clean enough to score well, but on this night he just looked a bit off throughout the performance.

Following a bye between rings and vault, the U.S. men came back strong with a super clean kaz 1½ from Malone, who hopped on the landing but was otherwise stellar, as well as a pair of handspring randis from Walker and Loos. Walker came into his with a ton of power, but lost some of his form in the air and took a big lunge back on the landing, and though Loos still has some room for improvement on form, his landing was excellent.

As with pommel horse and rings, things were a bit hit-or-miss on parallel bars. Shane Wiskus led off the rotation with an excellent routine after missing in qualifications. He started out a bit shaky on a pirouette at the beginning, but then quickly calmed down and delivered a fantastic performance, while Moldauer anchored with a beautiful set, complete with a stuck double front half dismount. In between them, Walker unfortunately had a couple of costly mistakes, including dropping out of a pirouette onto his elbows and then sitting his double front, causing the team to count an 11.767.

Things got a little scary for the guys on high bar, first as Loos both fell on his layout Tkachev and then sat his triple back tuck dismount, and then as Malone had a mistake in a pirouette that wasn’t as harmful to the team score as a fall, but still hurt his score quite a bit. Wiskus was on his game, though, and under a ton of pressure he showed a clean and solid routine that included a huge Kolman (which scared me for a second, because he went so far over), a couple of Tkachevs, a tak full finished nearly in vertical, and a stuck double-twisting double layout.

In the end, the U.S. would finish with a 245.698 after counting big mistakes on pommel horse and rings, as well as two falls on p-bars and two falls on top of one big mistake on high bar. It wasn’t close to what they’re capable of, but it was still just enough to fend off a fiery Brazilian team that came into the meet on the heels of the women winning gold.

Brazil ended up earning a 244.234 in the final, which was actually a slight improvement compared to qualifications. Key for Brazil was a hit pommel horse rotation, and while their routines are more simple and not as clean, staying on meant they wouldn’t have to count any scores below a 12, which kept them afloat until they could get to their best apparatuses in the latter half of the meet.

The team did count a fall from Diogo Soares on floor, where both Caio Souza and Arthur Zanetti also had some landing errors, and they started out a bit slowly on rings, though wrapped the rotation with a big score thanks to a beautiful and well-controlled routine from Zanetti, the 2012 Olympic champion on the event. Vault was also important in staying in line with the U.S., and they got some excellent scores there, thanks to a beautiful Yurchenko double from Soares, a kaz 1½ from Lucas Bitencourt, and a solid Dragulescu from Souza.

With the U.S. stumbling a bit on p-bars, Brazil was able to make up a lot of ground, starting off with a simpler but tidy set from Soares, followed by a strong routine with only minor mistakes from Souza, and then another strong one from Bitencourt.

High bar is a scary event to end on for any team, but Brazil knew they were so close to gold, and did everything they could to push toward that goal. Soares again started out without a ton of difficulty, but with very clean and impressive work throughout, including a gorgeous flared and stuck full-twisting double layout dismount. Souza followed up with a routine that had a couple of iffy moments, mostly involving his leg form on the catches for his Kolman and Cassina, but it was excellent as a whole, with another stuck dismount for the team as he landed his double-twisting double layout effortlessly.

It all came down to Arthur Mariano here, who went for broke with some of his biggest release elements, including a full-twisting layout Tkachev, two connected Tkachevs, and a full-twisting Jaeger. Unfortunately for him, and the team, he came off a little early into his double-twisting double layout, which he stumbled back and ultimately had to put his hand down behind him, earning a 12.833, far below what he’s capable of.

Gold was a long shot for Brazil until the number of U.S. mistakes made it no longer so. In the end, I think a hit routine from Mariano could have made this a nail-biter, and possibly could have pushed Brazil into the lead by the tiniest of margins, but regardless of how the standings ended up, it was so much fun to see what could have been just another day at the office for the U.S. men turn into a fierce battle against a host team full of beloved veterans who came so close to getting the upset.

We unfortunately didn’t get to see much of the other teams in this final, but the standings among the top four followed what we saw in qualifications, which Canada ending up with a 240.034 to take the bronze, while Colombia finished fourth with a 235.400. It was an especially exciting moment for the Canadian men, who won bronze at the Pan American Games in 2019, but haven’t medaled in the team competition at a Pan American Championships since 2010.

Both Canada and Colombia qualified to world championships along with the United States and Brazil, while six men earned berths as all-arounders, including Santiago Mayol of Argentina, Edward Gonzales of Peru, Jose Lopez of Puerto Rico, Isaac Nuñez of Mexico, Leandro Peña of the Dominican Republic, and Joel Alvarez of Chile.

The team and all-around berths were determined on the first day of competition, which served as the all-around and apparatus finals in addition to the team qualifier.

Souza ended up winning the all-around title here with an 83.033 after a great day of competition that saw him medal on four apparatuses. In addition to his all-around gold, he also won a gold medal on vault, a pair of silver medals on rings and high bar, and the bronze on parallel bars.

His win came ahead of Moldauer, the top competitor for the U.S., who fought past some mistakes on pommels and high bar to finish his day with an 81.767 to win the silver medal. Though it wasn’t a perfect day for him, his standout routines all earned golds, including floor, parallel bars, and pommels, where he proved that even a weak routine for him could still be the best in the bunch.

It was also thrilling to see the young Félix Dolci of Canada take the bronze, especially given that he had some pommels drama of his own. Even without a strong score there, he earned a 79.333, and he took home an additional bronze on floor, as well as the silver on vault.

Rounding out the top eight here were Bitencourt in fourth with a 78.500, Soares in fifth with a 78.433 (though officially, he is unranked due to two-per-country limitations), Andres Martinez of Colombia in sixth with a 78.399, Wiskus in seventh with a 77.833, and Dilan Jimenez of Colombia in eighth with a 77.601.

Also medaling in the apparatus competition were Zanetti with the rings title, Walker with the silver on parallel bars, Loos with the bronze on floor and rings, Mariano with the bronze on high bar, Jayson Rampersad of Canada with the silver and Martinez with the bronze on pommels, and Daniel Villafañe of Argentina with the bronze on vault.

Nations who competed here that will not have representation at world championships this year include Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Panama, Uruguay, and Venezuela based on both this week’s results in Rio and also on the fact that none of these programs have athletes in contention via the apparatus world cup qualifiers.

Pan Ams served as the fourth of five continental qualifiers for world championships, with the series wrapping up next month at European Championships, after which the apparatus qualifiers will be named. You can follow the men’s worlds qualification process on our MAG tracker, which has a detailed list of all teams and individuals that have qualified so far for 2022.

Article by Lauren Hopkins