For sophomore Brody Malone and alums Grant Breckenridge ’19 and Akash Modi ’17, their 2020 Olympic dreams progressed one step closer to reality this past weekend. All three gymnasts earned spots on the U.S. Senior National Team after competing at the Winter Cup in Las Vegas.
The three-day meet began on Thursday with a full day of all-around competition. Malone and Breckenridge placed third and fourth, respectively, joining four others in earning spots on the Senior National Team after just the first day of competition.
“It means a great deal to have earned a spot on the team,” Malone said. “It was the first step in the Olympic process going into this year and it felt good to get the job done on day one.”
Malone’s all-around score of 83.950 was only topped by Sam Mikulak’s event-winning score of 86.800 and runner-up Shane Wiskus’ 84.550. Breckenridge finished fourth at 83.900. Oklahoma’s Yul Moldauer and Allan Bower tied for fifth at 82.350 to round out the top six all-around gymnasts on Thursday.
“My biggest takeaway was that it is going to be possible for me to make the Olympics,” Malone said. “I struggled to believe this a little bit last year, but this weekend was a confidence booster.”
Malone, who won three events at the 2019 NCAA Championships to lead Stanford men’s gymnastics to its sixth championship in program history, turned in strong performances in the vault and parallel bars on Thursday. The acclaimed collegian posted the second-highest day-one score on vault at 14.400 and matched Breckenridge on the parallel bars at 14.600 to finish tied for the second-best routine in Thursday’s prelims.
“I felt like I had strong parallel bars and pommel horse routines so those were definitely my strengths,” Malone said. “I struggled a little bit on high bar and floor, not getting the scores that I had hoped for, so those two were the weaknesses of the meet.”
Following the opening day of competition, the Men’s Program Committee selected six more athletes to the Senior National Team based off the final results from the Winter Cup Challenge. Modi was one of those athletes, becoming Stanford’s third and final representative selected for the team. He finished fourth in the combined all-around at 163.250, a mark which included an 82.100 on Saturday night.
The road to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo continues June 4-7 with the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, which will determine which athletes advance to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials on June 25-28.
In the meantime, Malone and the rest of the Stanford men’s gymnastics team will return to team competition on Saturday at the International Collegiate Open. California, China, Norway and reigning Olympic champion Japan will all be visiting the Farm for the annual meet, scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. PT in Burnham Pavilion.