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Olympics: Nailing That Perfect Landing in Gymnastics

August 5, 2016

It’s a sensation that never gets old. The exclamation point to a well-executed routine.

The dismount.

It’s the final piece of an adrenaline-pumping performance that leads to cheers from the audience, raves from the judges. When done right, it is a byproduct of controlling the body against the laws of gravity, a motion performed so precisely that it allows a gymnast to land cleanly with barely a bounce or half step.

For one frozen moment, the nerves fade after a perfect landing before the crowd roars.

The U.S. Men’s Olympic gymnastics team begins competition at the Rio Games on Saturday. We asked team members what it feels like to stick a perfect landing. Chris Brooks, team captain from Houston: “The best for me was probably high bars at trials the second day after I had a little bobble on (parallel) bars and didn’t slam the set that I wanted to. I was like, ‘All right, I have to prove that I’m the man on high bar, and they can count on me.’ I was doing my set and got through the first half pretty well, started going through the second half and was like, ‘All right, we’re cruising.’ I remember going for my dismount. I came off the bar, spotted the ground and was like, ‘Aw, yeah, I got this.’ Then I stuck it. You can’t describe it with words. A yell comes out. I know it’s not appropriate to celebrate before you’ve saluted the judge, but sometimes it just happens.” Jacob Dalton, second- time Olympian from Reno: “It’s one of the best feelings. When you’re in the air and you feel good, ‘Oh, yeah.’ It’s confidence.” Danell Leyva, second-time Olympian from Miami: “That is one of the many parts that gymnasts have to work on. It’s called air awareness. Understanding where your body is in the air. You know what you need to do to stick that landing. It’s great to do a skill and do it in a way that you feel so comfortable. ‘Wow, this is going to happen.’ ” Sam Mikulak, second-time Olympian from Newport Beach: “Fulfillment. Accomplishment. It’s a big weight off your shoulders. We train every day to try to be as perfect as possible on the day that it matters. That’s the only thing that matters.

“You always know a stick before you stick it. As soon as you let go, ‘Oh yeah, that’s it. That’s right on the money.’ ” Akash Modi, alternate from Stanford: “It’s a pretty awesome feeling. Honestly, it’s kind of surreal. I just feel like I let go and let my body do everything because I’ve done every single skill in my routine perfectly at least a hundred times, and I know how to do it. I just have to let myself do it.” Alex Naddour, first-time Olympian from Arizona “A lot of times you don’t know if it’s going to be perfect, but as you’re doing the skills in practice, you’ve had the feeling of sticking things and seeing things in the air. You feel certain motions. The podium gives a little extra bounce, and the equipment we’re going to be on is different. I don’t know if you’ll feel it exactly right before (landing), but as it’s happening, you might know right before it’s going to happen. I think it’s different for each guy.” John Orozco, 2012 Olympian from the Bronx who withdrew in mid-July after tearing an Achilles during training: “We train so much, but in the moment when we are competing, it’s pretty exhilarating. Because you can factor in the judges are watching, the crowd is watching. This is the routine that counts.” Donnell Whittenburg, alternate from Baltimore: “You’re so used to training, you’re used to the air awareness. I’ve been doing it since I was 7. (Whittenburg is 21 years old).”

And when it’s not going well?

“You’re not shocked this happened, but you need to figure out a way to fix it fast.” Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him at twitter.com/elliottalmond . Follow Courtney Cronin at twitter.com/CourtneyRCronin .