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U.S. Men Dominate American Cup

March 1, 1996

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) _ John Roethlisberger made up for disappointing finishes in the still rings and floor routine by winning two events Thursday night, barely earning the chance to defend his American Cup title.

The late charge by Roethlisberger, the United States’ top hope for gold at this summer’s Olympics, pushed him into second behind teammate Jair Lynch in the overall standings.

Although the U.S. team dominated the night by winning all six individual events and had the top four finishers, only Lynch and Roethlisberger will be in Saturday’s all-around finals because meet rules allow only two gymnasts to advance from one country.

That’s bad news for John Macready and Blaine Wilson, both having to sit out Saturday’s rounds despite finishing third and fourth overall.

Wilson, an Ohio State junior, could’ve been there and may have matched Lynch’s three titles had he not fallen off the high bar and taken an 8.925, the lowest score by any U.S. male in any event Thursday.

``I really don’t know what happened,″ said Wilson, who won the still bars and horizontal bars. ``It felt good at the time, but it just wasn’t there.″

It was there all night for Lynch, who won the floor, pommel horse and vault titles in a row.

And he felt especially proud about his team’s sweep over 15 gymnasts from other countries.

``These are the top gymnasts in the world,″ said Lynch, 24, who was the youngest member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic squad. ``This makes an important statement that we can compete against them.″

Lynch finished with a total of 57.086, a narrow margin over Roethlisberger, who tallied 56.986. Macready had 56.887 and Wilson had 56.698.

Other all-around finalists are Germany’s Valeri Belenki, Georgia’s Ilia Giogadze, Japan’s Sigeru Kruihara, Belarusa’s Andrei Kan, Romania’s Adrian Ianculescu and Russia’s Oleg Kizmin.

Ukraine’s Valery Goncharov lost a chance to make the finals when he fell from the high bar and cut his chin. Goncharov, who at the time was eighth in the all-around, dropped from the competition after that.

Roethlisberger feared he would be left out after opening the night with a shaky performance in the still rings. He hoped to recover in the floor routine, his best event, and he was doing great _ until the end.

``I felt good going into the last pass,″ Roethlisberger said. ``It just didn’t turn out so good.″

Roethlisberger, a four-time national champion, was fourth after two and three events. He moved up to third after five events and needed a great high bar effort to advance.

He got it with a 9.737, tying Wilson’s score in the rings for the best individual score of the night.

The American Cup is a top international gymnastics competition that grows in significance in Olympic years. While formidable, this year’s foreign field is slightly weakened because some top Olympic contenders prefer to stay home rather than travel long distances before the Summer Games.

The competition, which is sponsored by McDonald’s, continues Friday with the women’s preliminaries. The men’s and women’s finals are Saturday.

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