And his prediction didn’t sound as
boastful as it was confident. He simply knew his guy was prepared.
Unlike last year, when he said he was “little
lucky” to win, defending champ Jonathan Horton
was ready too. “I was out of shape [in 2009],” he
said. “I think my experience kind of kicked in. This
year I expected to be national champion.” And his
victory both days—which required no luck—added
a new chapter to U.S. gymnastics history.
Not since Paul Hamm won three U.S. championships from 2002-04 had anyone earned consecutive titles, but Horton added his name to the list in
Hartford. Aside from some connection issues on
high bar, as well as a missed layout Kovacs in prelims, Horton competed like a man on a mission.
Perhaps his best performances were on the event
that yielded his lowest scores: 13.95 and 14. 10 on
pommel horse. Both routines were solid on an
apparatus where he can’t afford mistakes, as his
5.2 D-score there is at least a full point lower than
his other five events.
Horton, 24, defeated Leyva by a full point—or
one fall—on day one, but the 18-year-old Cuban
native had the leader looking over his shoulder in
the finals. After Horton opened the day on p-bars
and realized he was tighter than a drum—his
Diamidov and stutz never got close to a hand-
stand—he looked just as nervous on high bar,
where he added a giant between his Takemoto and
Yamawaki (which he did in prelims, too).
“Up until the last event, I was expecting to win, but
I’m incredibly happy with the place I came in.” —Danell Leyva