Jake Dalton captures American Cup gymnastic title
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WORCESTER — His preparation for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro may just be starting, but Jake Dalton looks to be hitting his stride.
On Saturday, Dalton put together an amazing performance by winning four events and finishing second in another to take the all-around title at the American Cup in front of 4,577 at the DCU Center.
Dalton started by notching a 15.7 on the floor and followed that two rotations later with a 15.166 on the rings and 15.433 on the vault. His winning high bar score of 14.733 also helped him toward an all-around score of 89.398, which easily topped Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev (87.298).
“I was able to do pretty much what I wanted to do, and that was go in there and be consistent,” Dalton said. “That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing in the gym.
“I knew I could be able to contend with those guys, and I’m just glad I’ve been able to do that.”
On the women’s side, 15-year-old Katelyn Ohashi made her senior debut in grand fashion, winning the all-around with a score of 59.199.
‘‘It was amazing just to be here,’’ said the Texan, who was propelled by a winning performance in the balance beam (15.333). ‘‘It was my first senior event, so that’s a big confidence-builder for me.’’
Simone Biles, who will turn 16 March 14, won the vault (15.733) and the uneven bars (14.8), and came in second overall (57.666).
Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas were in attendance — doing the Harlem Shake, firing a T-shirt cannon, and awarding prizes to members of the crowd. Fellow gold medalist Kyla Ross, who was hampered by a bruised heel and pulled out of competition earlier in the week, performed an exhibition on the balance beam before the awards ceremony.
These were some of the women, wearing their London gold, who Ohashi and Biles will be trying to follow with a repeat in Rio in 2016.
‘‘I’m taking it year by year,’’ Biles said. ‘‘But it is still in the back of my mind and I do think about it.’’
Dalton’s coach, Mark Williams, told him he had a comfortable lead heading into the final men’s event, the high bar. Dalton didn’t sit on the lead and that winning score of 14.733 edged Germany’s Marcel Nguyen (14.366).
Nguyen, who earned a silver medal in London, was third in the all-around (87.031).
“I knew I didn’t have to be perfect, but I can’t think like that going into high bar,” said Dalton, who won the 2012 NCAA all-around championship. “That’s one of the events where I have to just go all out and not let anything hold me back.
“I tried to do that and do the same routine that I do in the gym, and it ended up really well.”
Dalton scored 15.033 in the parallel bars, which was second to Nguyen’s 15.133.
The American Cup is the first event of the World Cup season and the most prestigious international gymnastics competition in the United States, so Dalton knew a good showing here would give him momentum as he aims toward Rio.
“When you haven’t competed in a while, your confidence kind of goes down because you’re not sure how you’re going to compete,” said Dalton, who took fifth in the floor exercise at the London Olympics. “Being consistent makes me feel good, and it humbles me knowing I’m doing the right thing in the gym, and I need to continue that so I know I can keep it up.”
Dalton’s US teammate Danell Leyva, who earned a bronze in the all-around in London, was hampered by a stomach bug he caught Friday.
In his first event, Leyva stumbled a few times on his floor routine, earning a 12.8, the lowest of the eight male competitors. He finished sixth overall (85.265).
“If I tell you the things that were in my head, you probably wouldn’t be able to publish them,” Leyva said.
“I was just trying to pick myself back up. As a matter of fact, my coach, Yin Alvarez, asked if I wanted to stop after the floor exercise or if I wanted to keep going and I was like, ‘Hell yeah, I want to keep going.’ ”
Leyva said he was given an IV Friday night to get his fluids up and felt better Saturday morning, but as the day progressed, his stomach got queasier.
“I was really tired,” Leyva said. “I don’t know why, but from the beginning of the floor routine, my body was really shaky. Nothing was feeling the way it should, and even in the rollouts I felt like everything was really short.”
Dalton said it was tough watching his teammate struggle the past two days, but was proud he gutted it out and competed.
“That’s something that’s not only important to me, but to Team USA,” Dalton said. “He fought all the way through.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.