The heartbreaks were every bit as big as the triumphs Friday night as the U.S. Olympic men's gymnastics team took on a very different look than what was expected, and Charles Lakes won the first big meet of his career.
Before 7,149 in the Salt Palace - most of them with tears in their eyes for Tim Daggett, who had to pull out after three events, and most of them still stunned that
Dan Hayden twice fell off the high bar and fell off the team when it seemed certain he would make it - Lakes won the Olympic trials with a score of 116.06 to the remarkable 115.80 posted by Scott Johnson. Kevin Davis had 115.290.
Johnson is the 1984 Olympian who petitioned into the meet with a broken hand and barged into second place overall without benefit of scoring from the qualifying meet. Without the qualifying meet, he needed to finish in the top four. "I can't believe I did so well," said the 27-year-old who says he won't have to lead this young American Olympic team around because they're all experienced and he can learn from them.
Johnson led four University of Nebraska products onto the team.
Lakes is from the California Sun club, and Johnson, third-place Kevin Davis, fourth-place Wes Suter and seventh-place Tom Schlesinger, who received traveling alternate status, are from Nebraska.
And the two youngest men in the meet made up the other two Olympic team positions. Lance Ringnald, 18, a high school graduate, the youngest American male gymnastics Olympian since Steve Hugg in the 1970s, finished fifth, and Dominick Minicucci, 18, a sophomore-to-be at the University of Illinois wrapped up the sixth spot.
Ringnald actually had the second-highest all-around total for the optional round. Lakes scored 58.00, Ringnald 57.95, Suter and Davis 57.90 and Johnson 57.80.
The 1984 Olympic-team captain Peter Vidmar saluted the team at post-meet ceremonies and then introduced Daggett, an '84 Olympian and the man whose 10.0 on the high bar clinched the gold medal for that team. As Vidmar and Daggett embraced, many of the gymnasts grew teary-eyed, as did the crowd.
Daggett and the Hayden twins, Dan and Dennis, who had seemed among the favorites to make the Olympic team after the compulsory round, attended the press conference afterward.
Daggett offered congratulations and applauded the team despite the pain in his shattered leg that wouldn't mend in time and the pain from having missed a chance he'd worked four years for.
"They're the ones that deserve to go to Seoul," Daggett said. "I woke up this morning and got out of bed, and the leg was very sore. I have good days and bad days." This was one of the worst.
When Daggett withdrew after scoring 9.0, 9.9 and 8.9 in three events and knowing he couldn't catch up, and with the terrible landing of the vault looming as his next event, Johnson said, "It was a very emotional moment for me. I had tears in my eyes. It hurt very bad. "I'm happy for Tim as long as he's happy for himself, and he has a right to be."
Dan Hayden said he'd separated a shoulder during parallel bars and gotten through that, then worried about it on high bar, where his only release move, a spectacular Kovacs. He missed the grip and fell on his face, got back on, tried it again, missed the grip and fell on his face. "When I went into the Kovacs, I was too conservative," he said. "I should have went more aggressively." He said he had to try it a second time or his routine wouldn't have counted highly enough to have gotten him onto the team anyway.
Brother Dennis had been moving up steadily through Wednesday's compulsories and scored 9.55 on floor exercise to start Friday, but a 9.35 on sidehorse and 9.3 on still rings, his favorite event, signalled his downfall, and a 9.3 vault and 9.1 bars dropped him out of contention.
Meanwhile, Lakes, Ringnald, Suter, Johnson and Davis were dueling for the best score of the night in the all-around, and it was Lakes' 9.95 high bar routine that finally separated them and made Lakes a champion for the first time in his life in a major competition.
"In the past, I've never been in a hurry to be a champion," said Lakes. "I wanted to be successful. Today's performance was a natural culmination of what we set out to do.
"I'm out here because I love to perform. I feel it's more important to do a performance that please people rather than to be No. 1. I feel that if I had pushed real hard, I wouldn have burned out my body and quit. During the last 11 years, this is what we were shooting for," Lakes said.
"I haven't always been a top competitor, although a lot of people thought I could be," he added.
Lakes now has a chance to be the first black American gymnast to compete in the Olympics, although Ron Galimore made the squad in 1980, when the U.S. boycotted the Moscow Games. "Hopefully, young blacks will now be drawn to the sport," Lakes said.
GYMNASTICS NOTES _ singer Kenny Rogers, a symbol for the gymnastics teams, will be at today's women's finals . . . Sabrina Mar and Dee Dee Foster, who entered the trials be injury petition, have both pulled out of the competition. Mar's chronic back injury flared up, and Foster's ankle is still painful, and neither scored well because of their injuries in the compulsory round.