Illinois gymnasts fall short at Olympic Trials

Sophomore Illinois gymnast C.J. Maestas, recent graduate Paul Ruggeri and volunteer assistant coach David Sender were not selected as team members or alternates to the 2012 U.S. men’s gymnastics team for the London Olympics.

None of the Illinois gymnasts or coaches responded to requests for interviews Sunday.

The five-member team and three alternates were announced to the gymnasts Sunday morning. The official announcement will take place Sunday night at the conclusion of the women’s competition. Danell Leyva and 2012 U.S. national champion John Orozco were automatically named to the five-man squad after the Olympic Trials on Saturday night. 2008 Olympic veteran Jonathan Horton, Michigan junior Sam Mikulak and Oklahoma junior Jake Dalton were the final three gymnasts named to the team.

The team was selected based on athletes’ performances at the trials and Visa Championships. The selection committee also looked at athletes’ international and domestic competition history, physical fitness, start and execution values and overall performance.

Ruggeri said on Saturday night that he was hoping to make the team as an alternate.

“If they want me on the team, then they’re going to put me on there,” Ruggeri said. “If not, then it’s not meant to be.”

He hit his past 18 routines during the two days of trials and the second day of Visa Championships. He ended sixth in the all-around and third on high bar and floor.

Maestas finished seventh in the all-around and fourth on the rings. Sender finished 14th overall, ahead of only Mikulak, who did not finish the competition due to injury and was still named to the Olympic team.

“I’m so pleased with my performance and I’m happy to know it’s over,” Maestas said on Saturday night. “It’s a relief to be done with everything. This was a very strenuous and nerve-wracking competition.”

Ruggeri thought he and Maestas would have complemented each other well as alternates. He said that the committee might decide to select specialists as alternates, though, which it did with pommel horse specialist Alex Naddour and floor and vault specialist Steven Legendre.

In previous interviews, Ruggeri had been unsure on what his future plans entailed, not knowing if he would continue to compete, join Cirque du Soleil or return to school.

“I am proud of myself for making it this far and doing this well,” Ruggeri said on Saturday night.

Sender plans to return to veterinary school at Illinois, where he had taken a year off. Maestas has three more years of eligibility on the Illinois collegiate team.

“We are very proud of our guys and how they performed,” Illinois assistant coach Daniel Ribeiro said Saturday night. “They represented Illinois well.”