Stephen Nedoroscik Seeks to Solve Rubik’s Cube Gymnastics Team Puzzle


TAMPA— Stephen Nedoroscik is the only participant in the US Gymnastics Championships who already has an individual world title, but he may not be on the five-man team for the world championships in two months.

Last October, Nedoroscik bounced back from missing the Tokyo Olympics to become the first American to win a world title on pommel horse (unbeknownst to him, he competed with a broken left hand which then destroyed him). put in a cast for 10 weeks.)

Nedoroscik is a specialist, focusing on just one of the six apparatus in men’s gymnastics. He will compete for a total of 90 seconds at the nationals this week, bypassing floor exercises, horizontal bar, parallel bars, stationary rings and horse vault.

This was fine in the last Olympic cycle, when the format allowed some gymnasts to qualify for the Games via international results in an event. And at last year’s world championships, where there was no team event and less incentive to fill rosters with versatile gymnasts.

But this year, and this Olympic cycle, is different. The Paris 2024 Games are reverting to the five-man and five-woman team formats of the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. The next two years’ world championships also have five-person teams, with no additional spots for U.S. gymnasts to compete. compete strictly individually. events.

So Nedoroscik, who solved a Rubik’s cube on Thursday while waiting for his pommel horse score (15.693 points), must find a way to fit into the puzzle for the US men’s team.

“My [Olympic] the path is going to be a little trickier,” said Nedoroscik, a Penn State electrical engineering graduate who attends Rec Specs out of comfort and superstition rather than prescription (but forgot to bring them to last year’s worlds). . “I have a pretty good understanding of what I need to do at competitions to do the competitions I want to do.”

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After a selection camp in October, a committee will finalize the team of five for the world championships. The responsibility is to produce the highest score in the team final at the world championships, where three different out of five gymnasts perform in each of the six events.

Nedoroscik’s pommel horse score would of course help the United States win a men’s team medal for the first time since 2014. But that’s just one of 18 in the team final.

“I always thought about taking parallel bars or rings,” he said, noting that it’s been about six years since he competed in another event. “But as the years go by while I’m just a specialist, it’s becoming less and less likely that I’ll be able to do that. So probably not.

Nedoroscik’s value would be linked to the ability of the other four gymnasts to hold their own against the other 17 routines. He needs teammates who can perform at a full level, contributing to multiple events to complete his specialty.

“To succeed as a single person at the event, it has always been a big challenge,” NBC Sports analyst Tim Daggett said. “It absolutely depends on who else is in the squad.”

Fortunately for Nedoroscik, the United States has brought a specialist to each of the last two world championships with a team event.

Alec Yoder performed only on pommel horse in the 2018 team final, when Sam Mikulak picked up the slack by becoming the first American to compete in all six events of an Olympic or World Team Final since the format expanded to three, three after the 2000 Olympics.

Mikulak did all six again in 2019, when Trevor Howard was used strictly on rings. Mikulak retired after Tokyo, but Brody Malone emerged as a candidate to compete over everything in a tag team final. The question is who else can carry a heavy load.

Had the World Team been chosen only on the first night of the Nationals on Thursday, Nedoroscik wouldn’t be on the top-performing five-man roster.

He hopes to score higher on Saturday night and then excel again at camp in October. Selectors also have the discretion to consider a gymnast’s ability to medal in an individual event, even if the primary focus is on the team.

“Stephen is definitely able to swing like that on this one event to get his chance to make the World Team,” said the USA Men’s High Performance Director. Brett McClure, one of the six people on the selection committee. “The world champion is definitely a feather that you can’t ignore.”

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