U.S. gymnastics trials: Frederick Richard flips his way to Paris in all-around triumph

Frederick Richard celebrates after competing on the pommel horse.
Frederick Richard celebrates after competing on the pommel horse at the U.S. Olympic trials on Saturday. The 20-year-old Michigan junior finished first at the trials to punch his ticket to Paris. (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

The man the internet knows as “Frederick Flips” will be flipping all the way to Paris.

Frederick Richard won the all-around at the U.S. Olympic trials on Saturday at Target Center with a two-day all-around score of 170.500 to earn his first Olympic berth. The 20-year-old rising junior at Michigan will lead a U.S. men’s team that’s ready to end a streak of three consecutive fifth-place Olympic finishes.

“Very realistic expectation is podium medals,” Richard said. “I don’t know which — bronze, silver or gold — which one it will be, but I know there will be one and we’ll do whatever it takes to get there.”

Read more: Brody Malone continues to defy expectations with strong start at gymnastics trials

Richard, the reigning world all-around bronze medalist who also runs popular Instagram and TikTok pages with behind-the-scenes gymnastics content, already knows what it’s like to end a streak. He helped the United States to a bronze medal at the 2023 world championships, the team’s first world medal since 2014. Richard’s world champion teammates Paul Juda and Asher Hong will join him on the Olympic team in Paris along with second-place all-around finisher Brody Malone and pommel horse specialist Stephen Nedoroscik.

The selection process, which mostly relies on a complex algorithm that computes scores from two-day competitions at U.S. championships and Olympic trials, was designed to maximize the team’s score in Olympic competition, where four athletes compete with three scores counting in the qualification round and three compete and all count during the team final. The math-heavy approach opened the door for Nedoroscik, who competed in just a single event.

The pommel horse specialist totaled 29.300 across the two days, which was second during the trials following Patrick Hoopes’ 29.450. But Nedoroscik had crunched the numbers from U.S. championships, where he led Hoopes by 0.775, and calculated that if he made a mistake, Hoopes would need a 15.100 to tie his three-score average. Hoopes finished with a 15.000 on Saturday.

“I knew going up for that dismount, I was just like please get this dismount, just please stick this landing,” Nedoroscik said. “I almost didn’t. And then in my head I was like, I think I made it.”

Nedorocik’s consistency might have been key to earning his coveted Olympic position over Khoi Young, the reigning world silver medalist on pommel horse. Young was named a traveling alternate, along with Shane Wiskus, who finished third in the all-around backed by a sold-out hometown crowd that cheered on the Spring Park, Minn., native.

Young needed to battle back from a 12th-place all-around finish after the first day. But the bigger problem was that the 21-year-old Stanford star scored just a lowly 11.650 on his signature event on Thursday. He redeemed himself Saturday with a 14.250 on the event, but still trailed behind Nedoroscik.

Malone, who missed the competition in 2023 while recovering from a career-threatening knee injury, shook off a fall on high bar in the opening event Saturday. He finished just two-tenths behind Richard, highlighted by a second stuck vault in as many days of competition that solidified his second Olympic berth.

Hong’s only major misstep came on pommel horse, where one of his legs appeared to clip the horse during a flare element, sending him crashing to the mat. He slipped from second place in the all-around standings to fifth entering the final event. But the Stanford star left the selection committee with a final exclamation point to consider going into the meeting room by sticking his dismount on rings in the last rotation. His 14.700 was the highest score on the event across both days of competition.

The 20-year-old’s high-flying vault and huge difficulty on rings and floor symbolize a recent trend in U.S. men’s gymnastics to push for bigger skills to compete with world powers Japan and China. The strategy is working faster than expected, men’s high performance director Brett McClure said. He believed initially that the bold strategy wouldn’t truly take off until the 2028 Olympics. But a world bronze medal last year has the Americans on track for an early arrival in Paris.

“It’s doable,” Ruda said of ending the Olympic medal streak. “This team is the best team possible. … It’s been done, we broke the drought once and we’ve got so many returners that are going to have the exact same mindset.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.