EXCLUSIVE

men's Gymnastics OLYMPIC TEAM

MEET THE ONES TO WATCH!
by ROSE MINUTAGLIO | JuLY 29, 2016

SAM MIKULAK

CHRIS BROOKS

JAKE DALTON

ALEX NADDOUR

DANELL LEYVA

PHOTOS BY RICHARD PHIBBS

Play Video
Play
Mute
Current Time 0:00
/
Duration Time 0:00
Loaded: 0%
Progress: 0%
Stream TypeLIVE
Remaining Time -0:00
 
Share
Fullscreen

"I think a higher level of professionalism, of confidence - that's going to be the biggest difference between 2012 and 2016… We've made a plan of attack and we want to execute," Sam Mikulak, here after being named to the U.S. Olympic team, said of his team's approach to the Rio Games.

“Last time, we were young and we weren’t sure how we were going to stand up against the rest of the world,” said Mikulak. “It’s something we have learned from and harnessed over the last four years.”

Olympic veteran and Rio favorite Jake Dalton (middle) pictured with Alex Naddour (left) and team captain Chris Brooks (right).

Play Video
Play
Mute
Current Time 0:00
/
Duration Time 0:00
Loaded: 0%
Progress: 0%
Stream TypeLIVE
Remaining Time -0:00
 
Share
Fullscreen

SAM MIKULAK
AGE: 23
HOMETOWN: NEWPORT COAST, CALIFORNIA

"My expectations in Rio are to come out with gold. We don't just want to be on the medal stand. That's a good feeling, but it's not our mentality – we want to be a gold medal team. Like we'll say [to each other], 'Listen dude, you suck at this, you need to get better at this and I don't care if I hurt your feelings. I hope you aren't upset, but you're going to take the time to make it better.' Everyone has taken that to heart, and we are nailing routines. Our team camaraderie is incredible."

Emoji that best describes you: The winky one. I just want it to be like a serious, 'Hah! I'm just joking with you.'

Favorite artist: I listen to music that doesn't have words. I love Kygo – he's tropical house and that's my stuff!

Boxers or briefs?: Briefs, because boxers are just like another pair of shorts.

Play Video
Play
Mute
Current Time 0:00
/
Duration Time 0:00
Loaded: 0%
Progress: 0%
Stream TypeLIVE
Remaining Time -0:00
 
Share
Fullscreen

"My mom and my dad… they come to every single competition I go to. I don't get to go home very often. They are coming to Rio! They wouldn't miss it for the world," Mikulak says of his supportive family.

Mikulak is currently America's top gymnast. A member of the 2012 Olympic team, he returns to the international competition stage after an Achilles tear forced him to miss last summer's world championships.

"Our team camaraderie is incredible," says Mikulak – at the 2016 Olympic trials - of the tight-knit squad.

CHRIS BROOKS
AGE: 29
HOMETOWN: HOUSTON, TEXAS

"A lot of heart is the key to success. Everybody works hard at this level, everyone is talented. But my heart and my desire is like a secret weapon."

Boxers or briefs?: Trunk briefs! It's like a brief and boxer mix.

Rap or country music?: Rap! Anything Machine Gun Kelly, Wiz Khalifa or Mac Miller.

How many meals do you eat a day?: Six smaller ones. I focus on carbs and proteins.

"I focus on carbs and protein," Brooks says of his diet that focuses specifically on a high carb and protein intake (and includes an egg white omelet with veggies for breakfast each morning!).

Brooks earned the top combined parallel bar and high bar score at the Olympic trials and placed second in the all-around behind teammate Sam Mikulak.

At the age of 29, Brooks will be the oldest first time Team USA gymnast to compete at the Olympics in over 40 years.

JAKE DALTON
AGE: 24
HOMETOWN: SPARKS, NEVADA

"My wife is definitely my biggest supporter… she was also a gymnast in college, so she understands my schedule. I tell her all the time that I feel like she's missing out on certain things like when we can't go out to dinner and I'm constantly traveling … You have your sacrifices for your ultimate goal, though. I'm hoping she can come to Rio! We're putting down a deposit, so hopefully I make the team."

Calories consumed in a day: Anywhere from 1,900 to 2,500.

Hashtag go-to: #DaltonsRidetoRio of course! I'm promoting that on Instagram right now.

Favorite song lyric: "Headstrong, I'll take you on!" It's motivating, intense rock.

"I take in anywhere between 1900 to 2500 calories a day. It's almost not enough food for what I've read says is right. But for gymnastics and for wanting to feel light and things like that, that works for me," Dalton, at the 2016 Olympic trials, says of his diet.

Dalton, a reliable competitor, placed third in the all-around at Olympic trials and earned top scores on floor and vault.

"I'm usually pretty strong on floor and vault and my rings is always decent. Parallel bars and high bar are where I fell like I've improved [since London]," the gymnast says of his goal for the Rio Games.

ALEX NADDOUR
AGE: 25
HOMETOWN: GILBERT, ARIZONA

"My favorite [gymnastics] memory was in 2014 at World Championships, we had a really good team and we really meshed together. We realized we cared more about each other than the sport. I have good friends [in gymnastics], we've been to each other's weddings, we've grown up together. Jake [Dalton] and I have been friends since we were 7, growing up as little juniors doing regionals together and then junior nationals and senior nationals. Now we are both married … It's crazy. And I'm a dad too!"

Inspiration: My baby daughter, she's awesome. I could have a horrible day in the gym and I come home and she's so cute!

What 3 items would we find in your gym bag right now?: Grips, a good luck note from my wife and a lucky coin.

Secret Weapon?: My teammates.

Naddour, a team alternate at the 2012 London Olympics, is making his first official Olympic debut in Rio.

"I would give up any individual medal, any gold medal I've gotten, for a team medal," says Naddour.

"I'm one of the ring guys, I try to keep strong and I use a hoist machine [to train]. I do machine stuff, which most guys don't do," says the gymnast of his workout routine.

DANELL LEYVA
AGE: 24
HOMETOWN: MIAMI, FLORIDA

"My performance in London made me realize in retrospect what kind of mentality I had going in. It had a lot to do with my age: I was only 20 then and I had that young arrogance, so it was like going out and showing what I had. I was trying to prove to people something and then I realized I don't have to prove to anybody what I already am. That helped and now I'm doing more of what I was doing back then, but with more maturity. I don't just want to make the team, I want to win the Rio Olympics."

Favorite food: My grandmother's bistec empanizado, it's super good. I'm always hungry.

Any good luck charms?: My girlfriend gave me a stuffed animal to keep with me and watch over me!

How will Rio be different from the London?: I feel a lot stronger and confident in myself.

"My training is very gymnastics based, it's very based around our routines… I don't do heavy weights," Leyva says of his training regiment heading into the Rio Games.

Leyva was named to the 2016 Team USA gymnastics team after John Orozco suffered an ACL injury. The gymnast is particularly strong on the parallel bars and high bar.

Leyva, a 2012 Olympic veteran, says he feels "stronger and more confident" in himself this time around.

Copyright © 2016 Time Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.