RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A 14th-place finish at the Olympics might not seem like much to many. It's different for American gymnast Chris Brooks, whose performance in the men's all-around final on Wednesday meant everything.
The 29-year-old U.S. captain fought through years of injuries and near-misses to make his Olympic debut at the Rio de Janeiro Games. Though he didn't end up on the medal stand, he was proud to hit all six of his routines without a hitch and represent the country after serving as an alternate in London.
"In the highest pressure situation possible ... to go out there and hit sets and basically just show people that I deserve to be out on the floor," Brooks said. "I've been an alternate for a long time and to get that opportunity is just pretty special to me. I'm glad I could come through it."
Wednesday marked the end of the Olympics for him and the final all-around competition of his career. He isn't retiring though, saying he wants to rest and recover before returning to competition where he'll likely compete in only the parallel bars and high bar.
His best event on Wednesday was the high bar, where his 15.200 was the third-highest score of the day.
"Hitting high bar and sticking was a phenomenal feeling to say the least," he said.
He's long struggled on the pommel horse, often falling off. On Wednesday, he hit his first five routines, leaving only the dreaded pommel horse to conquer. He managed to stay on, allowing him to finish a perfect 6 for 6. But the routine wasn't anything special and he received his lowest score of the day on it, dropping him down a few spots.
"Just a little disappointed I couldn't have hit a little better pommel horse routine, but I stayed on, so that's good," he said with a laugh.
Four-time national champion Sam Mikulak, who finished seventh on Wednesday, raved about his teammate.
"He did phenomenal," Mikulak said. "It was great seeing him. He's like: 'This is my last big hurrah,' and he went out on the biggest of notes."
Mikulak had some trouble early, stumbling on the landing to his vault. But he got going after that, and wowed on the parallel bars to earn his highest score of the competition.
"This is the epitome of the sport, and when you can go and put on a solid performance that lives up to your expectations of what you should be capable of doing, you can be nothing but happy about it," he said.
There's still more in these games for the 23-year-old Mikulak, who will compete in the high bar and floor exercise finals next week. He also said Wednesday that he plans to compete through the next two Olympics.
Although the Americans didn't come away with a medal again after also missing the hardware by finishing fifth in the team competition, Mikulak walked away from Wednesday's competition in a good place.
"I wouldn't change any way that I've prepared for this competition," he said. "I put my heart and soul into it every single day. I hit all of my routines. I have no regrets."