Overview of the 2016 American Cup in Gymnastics

Gabby Douglas and Ryohei Kato at the 2016 American Cup
Ryohei Kato and Gabby Douglas, winners of the 2016 American Cup. © Elsa / Getty Images

Competition Stats:

2016 American Cup

March 5, 2016

Newark, New Jersey, USA

ICYMI: How to Watch the Meet:

(Sidenote: Feeling nostalgic? Also check out the 2012 American Cup, when Gabby Douglas won, unofficially.)

Women’s Results:

1. Gabrielle Douglas, USA, 60.165

2. Maggie Nichols, USA, 59.699

3. Elsabeth Black, Canada, 57.132

4. Amy Tinkler, Great Britain, 55.932

5. Carlotta Ferlito, Italy, 55.598

6. Mai Murakami, Japan, 54.431

7. Tabea Alt, Germany, 54.399

8. Tisha Volleman, Netherlands, 52.666

9. Lorrane Oliveira, Brazil, 50.298

Men’s Results:

1. Ryohei Kato, Japan, 88.931

2. Donnell Whittenburg, USA, 88.565

3. Wei Sun, China, 87.665

4. Sam Mikulak, USA, 85.964

5. Nile Wilson, Great Britain, 84.131

6. Pablo Braegger, Switzerland, 83.664

7. Minsoo Park, Republic of Korea, 83.365

8. Andreas Bretschneider, Germany, 83.098

9. Lucas De Souza Bitencourt, Brazil, 76.998

Check out these unforgettable highlights from the meet:

Gabby Douglas

The American Cup is one of the first major international competitions of the year, so is often, to put it bluntly, full of mistakes and errors. This was certainly true this year as well. Gabby Douglas showed that she is still a top contender on the US team by winning the all-around over teammate Maggie Nichols, 60.165-59.699.

She was also a gamer: Douglas looked far better in competition than she did in podium training before the meet. She said after, "When the lights go on, I'm all in, there's something that flips, clicks, and I'm so thankful to have that clicking mode, I'm happy to have that -- click it on, click it off. But I want to be all in when it's training also.”

Douglas' top score (15.266) came on bars, which was arguably the most interesting routine of the day, with intricate low bar work and an improved double layout dismount. (Watch it here.)

She also rocked (and we mean rocked) her beam set for a 14.966 that many people thought was too low of a score. (Watch it here.) Though she only threw a Yurchenko double on vault, she looked solid on both vault and floor, earning 15.100 and floor exercise 14.833, respectively. She also had the top score on every event except for floor.

In short, she's on the short list to make the 2016 Olympic team, if she continues on this trajectory. Not that she wasn't already, after a silver medal in the all-around at the 2015 worlds, but she's fast-becoming indispensable, especially with bars as her strongest event. (Simone Biles, the three-time world all-around champion is weakest on bars, so Douglas complements her well.)

Douglas said after, to the press, “I think I'm in a very good spot right now, heading forward. [This competition] is a huge step and I'll take the experience.”

Maggie Nichols

Maggie Nichols, a 2015 world team member, also helped her case in this Olympic year by hitting consistently in her first American Cup. She was second in every event to Douglas, but was solid across the board, with scores that ranged from 14.633 on bars to a 15.200 on floor, where she really lit up the room. (Watch her floor set here.)

When asked the highlight of her competition she named that as well, saying, “Probably just ending on floor. I just really wanted to show off my new routine, and I think that I did. I was just really proud with how I did.”

“It’s so awesome having such a huge crowd cheering for you and yelling your name. It’s just so much fun and you just want to show off your routines to the crowd.”

Donnell vs. Ryohei

Japan's Ryohei Kato was the runner-up at the 2015 American Cup, and up until the last event, it looked like he would be the runner-up again this year. (He was also second at the 2013 worlds, so he's probably really tired of silver medals.)

American Donnell Whittenburg had a major lead heading into the high bar, the last event. But the high bar is one of the few events Whittenburg struggles on, and at this meet, he really struggled. He threw some incredibly hard tricks, but couldn't stay on on his full-twisting Kovacs, and scored only a 13.300. (Watch it here.) Kato, meanwhile, had scored nearly two points higher, earning a 15.233. (Watch it here.) It was a dramatic finish, but a very disappointing one for Whittenburg.

Still, Whittenburg has some great moments during the competition, including his trademark, eye-popping tumbling on floor (15.433) (Watch it), and equally jaw-dropping vault which scored a 15.266. (Watch it here.) His highest score of the day was actually on rings, where he notched a 15.500. (Watch it here.)

Kato said after, "In my mind, the best competition is when everyone actually hits and then to see who comes out on top at the end. I didn't think I could come out on top.”

"It's been a while since the Japanese have won the American Cup so it was important to ride the momentum from worlds last year and put up a good showing.” (The Japanese men won team gold at worlds in 2015.)

Sam Mikulak

Three-time US national champ Sam Mikulak had a difficult day in his first meet back since injury. He placed fourth, with multiple falls and errors. His best routine of the day was parallel bars, where he had the second highest score, with a 15.400. (Watch it.)

Mikulak said to the press, "I think there's certain takeaways from this competition that I'll be able to grow on and analyze and be able to make the changes to come out on top ... I need to do more routines, build more muscle memory.”

When and where is the Competition?

The 2016 American Cup will be held on March 5, in Newark, New Jersey

How can I watch it?

TV: It will air live on NBC from 1-3 pm ET on March 5 (Saturday)

The official hashtag on Twitter is #ATTAC2016 (AT&T American Cup 2016)

USA Gymnastics will also have live updates on its Facebook page and on Twitter.

What is it?

The American Cup is one of the few international meets held in the US. The location changes every year, but it's always in the US. In 2005 it officially became a World Cup event, meaning it follows FIG rules and carries some more prestige to it.

What does it mean to most gymnasts? It's early in the season, so most view it as a good starting point for the 2016 Olympic year. While a lot of great gymnasts have competed at the American Cup (Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner won the inaugural one in 1976), in recent years, the event has been won by Americans more often and has raised some eyebrows because of this. Part of this is due simply to the recent US dominance, especially of the American women, and it's partly due to the field, which sometimes has a weaker international roster than the American one.

The format has varied in the past, but this year it is an all-around competition, with no more than two gymnasts per country. The American contingent has gymnasts you'll recognize, including Olympians Gabby Douglas and Sam Mikulak, and world team members Maggie Nichols and Donnell Whittenburg.

Men's roster

Brazil: Lucas De Souza Bitencourt
China: Sun Wei
Great Britain: Nile Wilson
Germany: Fabian Hambuechen
Japan: Ryohei Kato
Korea: Junho Lee
Switzerland: Pablo Braegger
USA: Samuel Mikulak
USA: Donnell Whittenburg

Women's roster

Brazil: Lorrane Oliveira
Canada: Elsabeth Black
Great Britain: Amy Tinkler
Germany: Tabea Alt
Italy: Carlotta Ferlito
Japan: Mai Murakami
Netherlands: Tisha Volleman
USA: Gabby Douglas
USA: Maggie Nichols

Invitations to compete in the American Cup are loosely based on the results from the 2015 World Championships, held last October in Glasgow, Scotland.

Who's gonna win?

The Americans are the ones to beat in the women's competition, and it could go down to the wire between Gabby Douglas and Maggie Nichols -- the two have been very close in all-around competitions in the past year. Douglas is the 2012 Olympic all-around champion, and the American Cup has special meaning for her: In 2012 it served as her coming out party when she competed as an alternate and earned the highest total of the day. Though she didn't officially win the meet because of her alternate status, it showed she was on the rise in the Olympic year. If Maggie Nichols wins it will be the biggest victory of her career so far, and if Douglas wins, it'll further cement the impressive comeback she's made since taking time off the sport post-2012. Both women will want to perform well because it can only help their cause to be named to the 2016 Olympic team in July.

In the men's competition, Ryohei Kato was the runner-up last year at the American Cup, and the 2013 all-around silver medalist, and Fabian Hambuechen, the 2009 American Cup champ, is a veteran in the sport with nine world medals and two Olympic medals. The American men, Sam Mikulak and Donnell Whittenburg, could each pull off the win as well. Mikulak won the American Cup in 2014, before stumbling to fourth last year, so may feel like he has something to prove.

Who won last year?

Three-time world all-around champion Simone Biles won the American Cup last year, but USA Gymnastics has opted to rest her for this competition this year, and instead send her to the Pacific Rim Championships in April. The men's champion was Ukraine's Oleg Verniaiev, who isn't competing this year either.