April 17, 2010

By Alex Raskin
Special to NCAA.com

WEST POINT, N.Y. - The U.S. Men's Gymnastics Team won bronze at the 2008 Olympic Games, but judging from the NCAA championships at West Point, the squad could fair much better at the 2012 London Games.

"There are probably potentially around 10 (potential U.S. team members) here," said Kurt Golder, whose Michigan Wolverines won the team championship on Friday. "The team will consist of six and there's probably about 10 here."

Of the six teams competing for a national title on Friday, nearly every coach felt he had at least one potential Olympian on Saturday during the individual championships.

"We have four that can push for the United States team," said Stanford coach Thom Glielmi. "(Alex) Buscaglia, (Tim) Gentry, (Ryan) Lieberman and (Josh) Dixon."

Lieberman took home the national title in the parallel bars (15.100) on Saturday while his teammate, Eddie Penev, won the vault (16.540) and narrowly fell to Oklahoma's Steven Legendre in the floor exercise.

A native of Sofia, Bulgaria, Penev has dual citizenship and could potentially compete for his home country in 2012.

"The Olympics are a couple of years away, so we'll have to see," said Penev. "If I do good at the world championships, and keep doing what I've been doing, I think I'll have a pretty good chance."

"(Eddie) would definitely help any team but he needs to get a little stronger on some of the other events other than the floor and vault," said Glielmi.

Legendre, who picked up his school-record sixth individual national title on Saturday, figures to be in the picture for the U.S.

"It's hard to project that far out, but Steve's fantastic on floor and vault," said Sooners coach Mark Williams said of Legendre who tied his career-best with a 16.100 in the floor exercise. "I think he has a legitimate shot. He's strong at five events, but a little weak on pommel horse."

Though it's still down the road, Williams thinks that freshman Jacob Dalton (second-place in vault) and Alex Naddour (first, pommel horse) could be in the mix.

"You can't count Alex Naddour out because he's so good on pommel horse
and our team will need some good guys on that event," Williams said. "He's not bad at the other five events."
Other athletes who may have a shot at traveling to London to represent the U.S. are
Califorina's Glen Ishino (second, pommel horse) and Kyle Bunthuwong.

"They have to add difficulty and be very stable," said Cal coach Barry Weiner. "There are strategic ways to attack an event to raise your start score. A lot of kids do a lot of the same skills because there's bonus involved. So they have to go after that connection bonus and increase their start value."

Bunthuwong, Ishino, Dalton, Legendre, Naddour and Gentry are on the U.S. Men's Senior National Team with 2010 all-around champ, Michigan's Chris Cameron, Illinois' Paul Ruggeri and Tyler Mizoguchi, and Cal's Timothy McNeill.

And whoever the chosen gymnasts may be, America's collegiate coaches are
feeling very confident looking ahead towards 2012.

"Right now we're trying to train to compete for the gold medal," said Williams. "There's no question that that's ultimately the goal. We have tremendous talent."