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

Brody Malone competes in the floor exercise at the United States Gymnastics Olympic Trials.
Brody Malone competes in the floor exercise at the U.S. Olympic trials on Thursday. After a solid Day 1 performance, Malone is in strong position to make his second U.S. Olympic team.
(Abbie Parr / Associated Press)
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He shed the bulky knee brace strapped around his right leg, stuck his vault cold to open one of the biggest competitions of his life, and Brody Malone still didn’t crack a smile as he scurried off the mats at Target Center on Thursday.

Malone’s mission is far from done.

In second place after the first day of Olympic trials, the three-time U.S. champion is in a strong position to earn his second Olympic team berth with 85.100 points in the all-around. He trails 2023 world all-around bronze medalist Frederick Richard, who surged into the top spot in the final two rotations and finished with an 85.600.

The top all-around finisher locks in a coveted Olympic berth on the five-man team that will be announced Saturday (2 p.m. PDT, NBC). Malone, third-place finisher Shane Wiskus (84.300 points) and Yul Moldauer, who is tied for fifth (83.700), are vying for their second Olympic berths.

Brody Malone talks about his performance, including how he’s handling the nerves of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials. (Thuc Nhi Nguyen / Los Angeles Times)

An encore Olympic performance seemed improbable for Malone when he was on an operating table in Germany in March 2023.

Competing in the event finals at the DTB Pokal Team Challenge, Malone peeled off the high bar on his dismount and mangled his right knee. He was rushed to surgery, one of three procedures he needed to repair ligament tears, cartilage damage and a fractured tibial plateau. Brett McClure, USA Gymnastics men’s high performance director, was on the floor in the arena and didn’t think he would see Malone perform again.

Then the former Stanford star won his third U.S. championship this month in his first all-around performance in 17 months.


“Absolutely incredible,” McClure told reporters Wednesday. “It’s mind-blowing. Obviously from my position, high performance director, I want to just see him safely get through Olympic trials. That’s not good enough for him. He wants to go out there and win.”

Malone started with a triumphant vault in the first rotation, sticking his routine while competing without his knee brace for the first time. The brace is designed to push the joint inward while on floor and vault to reduce pain. But it was pushing against his shin and affecting his run. Competing without it marked another major milestone in his comeback.

“Sticking it was the cherry on top, for sure,” Malone said, finally smiling.

Malone’s only misstep came on pommel horse when he nearly slipped off the apparatus, but he muscled through the traveling element to stay on as the crowd exhaled. The slip-up allowed Richard and Asher Hong to jump briefly into a tie for first place over Malone, passing the veteran by just five-hundreths of a point after four rotations.

Brody Malone competes on the still rings at the U.S. Olympic trials on Thursday.
(Abbie Parr / Associated Press)

Hong, who won the all-around national championship in 2023 during Malone’s absence, bounced back from a 10th-place finish at the U.S. championship to finish Day 1 tied with 2023 world championships teammate Moldauer in fifth place (83.700). Moldauer slipped off the pommel horse in his opening routine but rallied with the night’s second-best parallel bars score of 15.150.

Stanford star Khoi Young, who won silver medals on vault and pommel horse at the world championships — a breakthrough event for the U.S. men, who claimed the bronze team medal — struggled on high bar and pommel horse and slipped to 12th.


The mistakes were uncharacteristic for the 21-year-old, who was the first American man to win multiple event medals at a world championships since 1979. Stanford coach Thom Glielmi said he’s never seen Young make those mistakes in practice, let alone competition.

But the trials are no normal meet.

“For a lot of us, it’s the biggest competition of our lives,” Malone said. “All the guys out there that haven’t made the Olympics before, this is their ticket to go. So I mean, of course the nerves are going to be going crazy. Even us that have been to the Olympics before, we want to go again, so the nerves are there for sure.”

Simone Biles should be a lock to make the 2024 U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team, but the other spots on the Paris roster will be up for grabs.

June 26, 2024

Wiskus turned the nerves into energy, thanks to his home court advantage. The Spring Park, Minn., native is competing just 20 miles from his hometown. After a floor routine that pushed him from fourth to second in the standings, Wiskus held one hand to his ear to soak up the adulation from the fans. When he completed his final routine, finishing his rings performance with a small hop on the dismount, Wiskus clapped up a cloud of chalk dust, pumped his fist at the crowd and pounded his chest.

Normally the mild-mannered Midwesterner wouldn’t play to the crowd as much. Maybe when he was younger, an atmosphere like this would rattle him, Wiskus said. Hearing the roar from the crowd when he was introduced helped him let loose.

“I allowed myself to have some fun considering what could potentially be the last meet of my career,” the 25-year-old said.

With another strong performance Saturday, Wiskus could extend his career all the way to Paris.