Originally written on Fox Olympics  |  Last updated 11/17/14
Defending champion Danell Leyva grabbed the early lead at the US men's gymnastics championships Thursday night, sneaking past John Orozco in the final rotation with a polished parallel bars routine. Leyva, also the world champion in the event, scored 15.800 points to finish at 91.850, just ahead of Orozco's 91.8. Leyva and Orozco were more than a point ahead of Sam Mikulak, the 2010 junior champion. Chris Brooks and Jonathan Horton rounded out the top five as the US Olympic picture began to take shape. This was the first step in four-round, three-week test of nerves. The scores from this weekend will be combined with the scores at the Olympic trials at the end of the month, with the gymnast earning the top overall total locking up an automatic Olympic spot. Barring injury, Leyva is considered a near certainty to head to London but he cemented his status as the front-runner by delivering a consistent performance on a night in which the top five competitors were separated by a narrow 1.550. Leyva had the top scores on high bar, parallel bars and was second on pommel horse, allowing him to overcome so-so efforts on still runs and vault. The 20-year-old saved his best for last. He entered the final rotation 15.750 behind Orozco but roared back in front with a smooth 45-second routine on the bars. He nailed the landing, his stepfather and coach Yin Alvarez exploding off the floor in celebration. The score easily topped the 15.633 Leyva posted while winning the world title in the event last fall, capping two hours in which a handful of familiar faces showed they will be considered a legitimate threat to reach the podium in London next month. Five of the top six scorers made the world team last fall, the only exception being Mikulak, though had a pretty good excuse. The sophomore from Michigan missed this event a year ago after breaking both of his ankles during a freak accident at an international event. He bounced back to finish second in the all-around at this year's NCAA championships and put together the kind of steady performance that showed he's ready to compete at the sport's highest level. Mikulak scored in the top 10 in five of the six events, his only wobble coming on floor when he gingerly stepped out of bounds leading to a hefty deduction that took him out of the running for first. It's a spot Orozco appeared to have locked up for much of the evening. He finished in the top 11 in all six rotations, getting a reprieve from the judges on pommel horse, who raised his initial score from 13.75 to 14.650 after a review. Though he was nipped at the end by Leyva, Orozco continued to build on his promising spring and break up the expected duel between Leyva and Horton. Leyva edged Horton at nationals last year and Leyva jokingly asked Horton on Wednesday if he was ready to finish second again. Horton's not quite there yet but appeared to be all the way back in his first full competition since breaking his left foot at worlds. He struggled on pommel horse -- as usual -- but overcame it by putting together a dazzling high bar routine. The 26-year-old joked ''I'm tired'' as he trudged toward vault, his final rotation, but drilled a solid 15.700 to cement his return to form. He hovered in the top five throughout and was joined by former Oklahoma teammate and best friend Brooks, who soared up the leaderboard with a thrilling vault. Brooks exploded off the table with a front handspring, before flipping twice in the air. He landed on the pad with a thud and didn't move before clapping his hands and following it up with a fist pump. The competition continues Saturday.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Trading up for QB in first round is a risky proposition

Madison Bumgarner rips Max Scherzer over thoughts on DH

Hamilton: Angels knew what the risks were with signing me

MLB could move Orioles’ home games to another city

Kyle Lowry isn't exactly endorsing coach Dwayne Casey


J.R. Smith suspended two games for hitting Jae Crowder

Duke takes over as the No. 1 recruiting class

Kevin Love not expected to be available next series

Titans have reportedly been 'all over' Marcus Mariota

Report: Browns talked with Redskins about trading up

Doc Rivers tore into Clippers in film room after blowout loss

Orioles VP reacts to Baltimore protests with passionate tweets

Should the Warriors be worried about extended rest?

WATCH: Paul Pierce bangs glass at Capitals-Islanders Game 7

Jon Jones turns himself into police, facing felony charge

Report: Brady was at stadium day of White House visit

Arkansas has leather belt to commemorate Texas Bowl win

John Angelos, Orioles got it right with Freddie Gray protest

Belichick's girlfriend fine with coach checking out Teigen

V. Stiviano posts birthday message to 'BFF' Donald Sterling

Mark Cuban and the inevitable playoff peril of the Mavs

Wizards made Raptors look bad while remaking themselves

Previewing Game 7 showdown between Islanders and Capitals

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Hamilton: Angels knew the risks

Jon Jones turns himself into police, facing felony charge

MLB could move Orioles’ home games

Duke takes over as the No. 1 recruiting class

Titans have been 'all over' Mariota?

Doc Rivers tore into Clippers after loss

Worst picks ever by every NFL franchise

Report: Cowboys not in on Peterson

NFL Draft 2015: Ranking the QBs

Top 10 storylines for the 2015 NFL Draft

Paul Pierce trolls Raptors fans

Yes, ESPN2 is airing video games

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.