BOSTON — Sam Mikulak soared to his fifth U.S. gymnastics title Saturday, rebounding from a sluggish performance in the opening round to leave little doubt that he’s fully recovered from an Achilles injury 18 months ago.

The two-time Olympian finished with the top scores on floor exercise, high bar and parallel bars while posting a two-day total of 172.900 to become the sixth man to win five national championships, and the first since Blaine Wilson ripped off five straight crowns from 1996-2000.

Defending champion Yul Moldauer, who is battling lower-back issues, surged to second following a rocky start during the first round on Thursday. Allan Bower finished third, followed by Donothan Bailey, Alec Yoder and Akash Modi.

Mikulak led after the first day despite an admittedly sloppy performance that included coming off early in his high bar routine and a slip off the pommel horse, both miscues coming on skills he’s completed thousands of times. The mistakes didn’t prevent him from starting Saturday atop the leaderboard, though he said he wasn’t quite so sure that was a good thing.

The men’s program is in the midst of a generational shift. Mikulak is the only still active member of the 2016 Olympic team that finished a disappointing fifth in Rio de Janeiro. But the next wave is still finding its footing.

The Americans won just a single medal at the world championships last year, and Modi acknowledged that the uneven display the group as a whole put on during the first day of competition is nowhere close to what will be required if the U.S. wants to nudge itself back toward the world’s elite.

There were promising signs Saturday, with Mikulak leading the way. He placed part of the blame for Thursday’s bumpy display on a lack of energy both on the podium and in the stands. He seemed intent on changing it from the second he saluted the judges before his floor exercise. He clapped his hands enthusiastically after grinding his way through a 14.350, and kept it going when he moved to the pommel horse. He avoided the misstep that cost him during the first round, and his 14.950 was the second-highest score of the meet on an apparatus that has long been a nemesis to the Americans.

By the time Mikulak screamed after drilling his dismount on parallel bars, the title was his and the overall mood had brightened considerably.


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