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Deja vu for Americans; 5th in team gymnastics again
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — It was 2012 all over again for the Americans on Monday in the Rio Games.

Just as in London, they followed a great performance in the preliminaries of the team competition with a terrible start to the finals and finished fifth.

“In a lot of ways, these guys performed better than I feel we did in London,” coach Mark Wiliams said. “We fought through everything and there’s no giving up. Gymnastics is hard and there are a lot of good teams out there on the men’s side.”

Four years ago things went wrong when they started on the pommel horse and two of them fell. On Monday it was the floor exercise that put the team in a big hole early with both Alex Naddour and Sam Mikulak stepping out of bounds during their routines.

“It’s obviously tough whenever you start from behind, but that’s kind of the Team USA motto to never give up, never quit, fight until the end,” Chris Brooks said. “So we just tried to rally together and get the ball rolling.”

They were able to do that, turning in solid performances on the rings, vault and parallel bars to put them within striking distance of a medal. Only the uneven bars were left and Danell Leyva knew he had to be aggressive to give the team a chance.

But instead of sticking his routine, he missed a connection, leaving the Americans in fifth place once more.

“We started it off a little rough but we were picking it up toward the end,” Leyva said. “I was the one who messed it up at the end. I just slipped on the bar. I really tried grabbing on and holding on as much as I could but my grip was off, like it was not on the bar, and that’s why it slipped off.”

It was a day that illustrated the rapidly increasing gap between the U.S. men’s and women’s teams. While the women are overwhelming favorites to win their second straight team gold, the men have slipped to the middle of the pack after winning team medals in both 2004 and 2008. Williams watched the American women dominate the field in qualifying on Sunday night and hoped it would give his group a boost.

“Looking at the results obviously they’re doing the right things and they looked fantastic last night,” Williams said. “That was one of the best gymnastics meets I’ve ever watched. We’ve got to come out and be on fire as well.”

The gymnasts weren’t really interested in comparing what happened in London to Monday’s performance. But Leyva summed up the feelings of most of the guys rather succinctly.

“It feels equally bad,” he said.

Despite the disappointing finish the men were happy with their effort and looking forward to better results in the individual events.

“Even though we didn’t get the placement that we wanted it was fun. We had fun down there,” Brooks said. “We were supporting each other. We were competing with everything we had. It’s gymnastics — sometimes it doesn’t go your way, sometimes you need a little bit of luck. But I had a great time.”

Naddour completely agreed with his teammate and had a smile on his face as he described the day.

“Fifth in the world,” he said. “It’s still pretty good.”