Morgan Hurd & Sam Mikulak Win American Cup

Scoring a 55.832, Team USA’s Morgan Hurd won her second American Cup title on Saturday. With her outstanding performance, Hurd nearly eliminated any uncertainty about her Olympic team placement. 

Hurd’s form, lines, and high-level routines were back, and Tom Forster, the women's high-performance director for USA Gymnastics, took notice. “She was a new person,” Forster said of Hurd’s confidence at training camp last week. “Even her body language. She owned the place.”

While all of her events were outstanding and consistent, Hurd’s beam performance stood out.

“I’d say I’m particularly happy with the beam even though I had made a mistake (a slight bobble),” Hurd said. “Otherwise, I thought it was a very solid routine for me and I did upgrade it a little, so I was really happy about it.” 

Seeing his six performances, one couldn't tell American Sam Mikulak recently had the flu. The men’s winner of the 2020 American Cup scored an 85.332 and looked exceptionally healthy, showing readiness and willingness to take his accomplishments to his third Olympics. He was asked about living up to demanding expectations and being under pressure. 

“I wouldn’t say it was too demanding. If anything, I wanted to go out and live up to my expectations and today I was under that,” Mikulak said.

Known for his high difficulty and form, Mikulak came away with the highest execution in the still rings with an 8.70. 

Canadians shine in Milwaukee

Over the weekend, Canadian Ellie Black proved to everybody that her ankle injury was a minor detour in the road to her third Olympics. In front of a huge crowd at Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Black competed in the American Cup, placing fifth. Because of her recent ankle injury, her high placement had some people surprised, but when asked about her future training and building in upgrades, Black was philosophical.

“I think it’s important to be smart about your training and your load and not overdo it too fast too soon,” she said. “I’ll use this (American Cup competition) as a stepping stone as we continue to build through the rest of the year.” 

The Halifax native proved that even with easier dismounts and holding back, she was still one of the best in the world. 

“I'm really happy. Really proud of myself,” Black continued. “My ankle held up really well today. Some of the landings are really sore but my ankle was feeling good today. It was very good to me. I asked a lot of it today. I did the whole warm-up and the whole competition.”

During the competition she delivered her patented unflappable personality, bringing consistently strong performances. 

The Tokyo World Cup at the beginning of April will be Black’s next competition. She mentioned she is taking it one day at a time. She will come home, rest a bit, taking the training day by day, and start building in more difficulties. 

Only learning two weeks ago he was headed to the American Cup, Canadaian men’s gymnast Rene Cournoyer used this opportunity to gain more experience on the international stage, finishing 10th. Cournoyer is known for his strong form, deliberate pacing, and strong rhythm in his events.

“I am really satisfied with what I’ve done,” he said. “As you may know, I had a very short notice about this competition so I was not fully ready. But I ended up doing good routines on most events.” 

Asked if the Pan American Games last summer helped build his confidence, Cournoyer said, “Absolutely. Every experience I get gives me more and more confidence. It shows me I belong with these guys — the best athletes in the world and I was very happy with the way I competed.”

Cournoyer had a great showing on still rings with an execution score of 8.00. 

Fall limits Verniaiev to silver

You can’t watch an international meet without being mesmerized by Oleg Verniaiev, an early favorite to win. Even with a shocking fall on parallel bars, Verniaiev was still in first place until the very end when he was edged out by Mikulak. Watch his jaw-dropping vault: 

USA’s DiCello & Wiskus in the hunt

At her first international competition as a senior, Kayla DiCello came to conquer, finishing second. She was unwavering in her steadiness and quiet confidence. A rising star for the U.S. team, she was especially strong on the uneven bars. 

Shane Wiskus placed fourth after a determined fight for the bronze. Wiskus ended his competition with his signature high-flying high bar routine, showing that last year’s World team assignment and last month’s Winter Cup silver were no fluke. He not only delivered but also stayed calm and collected. 

Although his parallel bar’s performance had a very respectable score, it was not what Wiskus expected. 

“You can never take a bad performance with you to the next event if you want to do well,” Wiskus said. “If something goes wrong, you're never out of it. I think I’ve proved it today. If I had given up on high bar I wouldn’t have been pushing James Hall at all. But with the high bar set, I finished strong like that. I was at least inching towards (the bronze medal). ”

Wiskus finished 0.202 behind Hall. 

The British stars

Great Britain’s Jennifer Gadirova finished fourth. The 15-year-old’s high-level execution is breathtaking. The country’s Olympic trials take place next week, and we certainly expect to see Gadirova make the cut.

Watch her floor routine and the height on her double double during her first floor pass. 

She also became just the second gymnast from Great Britain to compete a full in dismount off the beam.

James Hall is the current British all-around champion, and he should also be crowned the “King of Consistency.” In a competition filled with surprises, Hall’s third-place finish leaves no doubt to the steadiness in his performances. 

Watch the full replay from the 2020 American Cup here.

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