Sam Mikulak, 19, from California, is the son of an orthopedic surgeon who completed in collegiate gymnastics. It's as if he was born and bred for this moment. Mikulak, a Michigan sophomore, can't stop talking unlike Jake Dalton, 20, from Reno who does his college work at Oklahoma and stays mostly in the background, being quiet until he does a pounding floor routine with such power it makes the coins in your pocket jingle.
And then there's Jonathan Horton, who has been referred to has "Team Grandpa." He's 26 and married and has team bronze and horizontal bar silver medals from Beijing.
It seems an unlikely team mix, these four Olympic rookies and "grandpa." So far, it is working.
This U.S. men's gymnastics team qualified for Monday's team final with the highest score, ahead of defending world champion Japan and defending Olympic champion China, among others, by nearly three points.
Qualifying scores are erased and the eight teams which advanced to the finals start back at zero Monday. The U.S. men haven't won team Olympic gold since 1984 and one man who was on that team senses something special is about to happen this year.
"It's the first time since 1984 where I've felt about a men's team the way I felt about our team," Peter Vidmar said Saturday at the North Greenwich Arena. "This team really likes each other. Danell, John, Sam, Jake, Jon — you can tell, they are a team.
Bela Karolyi, who used to be women's team coach and who is the husband of women's team coordinator Martha Karolyi, suggested the same thing during Olympic trials last month.
"I like these men very much," Bela Karolyi said. "They have the camaraderie and you don't always have that. I haven't seen that very much the past few times with the men."
Vidmar said he expects the Japanese and Chinese in particular to perform better Monday. He said he expects world all-around champion Kohei Uchimura of Japan to be better than he was Saturdaywhen he made two uncharacteristic mistakes. He said he expects the Russians to better. "But the U.S. men made mistakes too," Vidmar said. "They can get better."
That was Horton's prediction as well. He opened qualifying for the U.S. by falling off the pommel horse.
"That just shows," Horton said, "how what happens first doesn't have to carry over."
Vidmar, who is working for NBC here, said he gave the U.S. men a hint of what it might feel like to win team gold. "It will be overwhelming," he said.
The format for the men's team final is three gymnasts per country on each apparatus with all three scores counting. For the U.S, the team roster will be:
On floor exercise: Leyva, Mikulak, Dalton.
On pommel horse: Leyva, Mikulak, Orozco.
On still rings: Dalton, Horton, Orozco.
On vault: Orozco, Mikulak, Dalton.
On parallel bars: Mikulak, Orozco, Leyva.
And on the horizontal bar: Orozco, Horton and Leyva.