BOSTON (AP) — Spills, skids and face plants — not exactly a promising start for the men’s Olympic gymnastics team.
But former Gophers standout John Roethlisberger scored a 9.375 in the vault, his final event, to seal first place and a spot on his second Olympic squad Saturday. The usually low-key Roethlisberger jumped into the arms of his father and coach, Fred Roethlisberger, and grinned as he ran off the platform.
Roethlisberger, a Minnesota native and three-time NCAA all-around champion, started the night with a 1.2-point lead. He finished with 228.873 points. Blaine Wilson of Ohio State was second with 228.159.
The remaining five members of the Olympic team — Mihai Bagiu, Jair Lynch, John Macready, Kip Simons and Chainey Umphrey — literally fell into place. There were 15 spills throughout the night, as well as countless bobbles and hops.
Peter Kormann, the Olympic coach, said he wouldn’t make too much out of the mishaps.
“When I competed in the Olympic trials, I did horribly. And when I competed in the Olympics, I hit every routine,” said Kormann, whose bronze in the floor exercise in 1976 was the first medal by an American male since 1932.
Bagiu, the first competitor, set the tone for the night when he stepped out of bounds on his first tumbling pass in the floor exercise, good for a .10 deduction. He also skidded on an aerial tumbling pass, and took a big hop on his final maneuver, earning an 8.725.
The worst came from Lynch, who finished sixth despite two face plants off the high bar within 30 seconds. Lynch, the youngest member of the 1992 squad at 20, lost his grip on a release move midway through his routine, dropping to his hands and knees.
He got back up, but as he sailed over the bar on his next release move, he missed and plummeted to the floor, falling flat on his chest. After finally finishing the routine, he ripped off his wrist guards in disgust. He scored an 8.1, the lowest mark of the night, and dropped from fourth to seventh.
Even Roethlisberger and Wilson had trouble. Roethlisberger, who usually makes few mistakes, put too much into his last tumbling pass on the floor exercise, pitched forward and had to throw in an extra somersault. That earned him a 9.125, his lowest score of the competition.
“I could taste the end of the meet, and I could taste the spot on the Olympic team, and I guess I was a little anxious,” Roethlisberger said.
Wilson had a clean performance until the floor exercise, his penultimate routine. He slipped on a tumbling pass and nearly fell, and also took a small hop on his final pass. He scored a 9.375. his lowest score of the night.
The bright spot of the night was the performance of Umphrey, the crowd’s favorite throughout the competition. He was solid in every event, and the crowd booed when the judges awarded him a 9.35 for a high bar routine that included four back-to-back release moves.
When Umphrey completed his last routine of the night, the pommel horse, coach Art Shurlock screamed and grabbed him. Umphrey then stood in front of the stands, waving at the fans as they applauded.
“That was great,” Umphrey said. “I think they appreciate how much I love what I’m doing out there. It really helped my performance.”
The men’s standings were a combination of their scores from trials and national championships, held earlier this month. Compulsories and optionals were equally weighted, and made up 60 percent of the final score. National scores counted for the remaining 40 percent.