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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Slumping Americans Hungry for Developed Squad

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee -- U.S. men's gymnastics has been in an international slump for a dozen years, but there's reason for optimism heading into the Summer Olympics.


USA Gymnastics changed the way it selected the men's coach for the Atlanta Games, giving Ohio State's Peter Kormann a year to help develop the team.


"It's a completely different strategy," Kormann said. "We got together and said, 'What are we going to do here, as a country and a team, instead of each coach worrying about his own gymnast?'"


American men have won just two medals in international competition since winning the team gold, two individual golds, two silvers and two bronzes at the 1984 Olympics. Trent Dimas won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, and Paul O'Neill won a silver at the 1994 World Championships.


During the same 12-year period, U.S. women have won 25 intevnational medals, including four golds. Shannon Miller, winner of last weekend's National Gymnastics Championships, likely will head an Olympic team with a good shot at more medals in Atlanta next month.


At last year's world championships in Japan, the U.S. men were third after the compulsories. But they ended up in ninth place after a poor performance in the optional competition.


Since then, they have worked hard to improve in all areas.


"I'm happy right now. I couldn't pick an event I'm really worried about," Komann said. "The guys are getting better. We had a very direct and decisive plan to upgrade our optional skill level."


That included learning harder vaults and becoming more consistent in the compulsories.


"The guys clearly have made tremendous progress," Kormann said. "We are much, much better than we were last year."


The athletes think so, too.


"I think there's a good chance we can win a medal. I don't see why we couldn't," said Blaine Wilson, who won the overall title in the nationals. "I think we have one of the best teams that there is."


Jair Lynch, who was eighth in the overall competition and won the parallel bar title Saturday, said "this team definitely has a shot at a medal."


"That is in everyone's psyche and is their goal," he said. "Everyone has really made a commitment since the World Championships to improve their routines, improve their difficulty." Kip Simons, fourth in the overall and winner of the still rings event at the nationals, agreed.


"The routines are harder, more consistent," he said. "I think we've got a great team that is ready to compete in our country, finally, and get a little help on our side. I'm sure we're going to do a bang-up job."


The most consistent American performer the past few years has been John Roethlisberger, a four-time national champion who was second over the weekend. He declined to make any predictions for Atlanta, but did offer one guarantee.


"I'll guarantee you whoever is on that team will go to Atlanta and compete their heart out, train their heart out, and do the best damn job they can do," he said.