Stretching Out: Another Type of History Repeats Itself
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Belgium has not been kind to American male all-arounders. With one high bar routine standing between him and a medal, Sam Mikulak made his first mistake of his first world championships. In retrospect, his drop to sixth place in Antwerp pales in comparison with what occurred at the 2001 worlds in Ghent.

Prior to the final rotation, Paul Hamm and Sean Townsend had a chance to grab the top two spots in the all-around final. Neither could hold a firm grasp on the high bar, however. Townsend missed his Kovacs twice and scored 8.250. With a repeat of his prelim routine (9.225) or team final routine (9.512), Townsend would have finished ahead of gold medalist Feng Jing of China.

Hamm, competing in his first worlds, felt the pressure too. (Townsend had been in the 1999 worlds.) He missed his Kolman, then added injury to insult — literally. He remounted and swung his Gienger too close and smashed his face into the bar. He did not fall off a second time, though. After he dismounted, blood was streaming from his mouth. He scored, 8.787, well below the 9.737 he posted in the team final. He, too, would have topped Feng without the mistakes. Hamm and Townsend, humbled and motivated, finished seventh and eighth, respectively.

History shows that Townsend would claim the gold medal on parallel bars in Ghent, and Hamm would win the all-around title, finishing strong on high bar, at the 2003 worlds in Anaheim, Calif.

Mikulak (shown here with coach Kurt Golder after high bar) has plenty of time to translate his domestic dominance to the international stage. He handled his disappointment well. He continued to smile as best he could.

"I felt like it was a very good experience for me," he said afterward. "It wasn't the [outcome] I wanted, but next year I'll be back, and hopefully it will turn out a little better."

Mikulak still has another shot at erasing his bad memory on high bar in Antwerp. Ironically, he qualified fourth to that event final.

2013 has been quite a year for Mikulak, who is in his final year at Michigan. He won his second NCAA all-around title and his first U.S. crown. He's in a good place, regardless of what happened on high bar yesterday.

"It was very close, and for some reason it didn't happen," he said of his all-around fate. "All I can do is learn from it. That's gymnastics, though. One second you're on, one second you're off."

And for American all-arounders in Belgium, history is proof of that.

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