© John Cheng

By Paul Logothetis

MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada, Oct. 5, 2017 – Yul Moldauer’s World Championships debut looks like a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

The 21-year-old American finished seventh in the men’s all-around final on Thursday at the Olympic Stadium.

Moldauer did not quite flirt with the podium but showed consistency during his mistake-free routines. But it still wasn’t enough to become the first U.S. champion since Paul Hamm in 2003.

“You have to hit the best routine of your life,” Moldauer said from the Olympic Stadium. “If I take that back home and take my turns and act like I’m at Worlds, it’ll help prepare mentally, every little detail counts. Everything counts.”

China’s Xiao Ruoteng (86.933) edged countryman Lin Chaopan (86.448) for gold, while Kenzo Shirai of Japan (86.431) earned bronze.

Moldauer, whose total was 84.998, soaked in the medal ceremony from center stage while standing next to Olympic silver medalist Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine, who finished one position behind him. “You can look at a gymnast (here) and see his confidence,” the 21-year-old Moldauer said. “Looking at all these world class gymnasts, I’m going to take a little bit of that (with me). When I go home I’m not going to second-guess, I’m just gonna go for it.”

Moldauer could still come away from the competition with a medal by sneaking onto the podium come Saturday’s floor exercise final.

“Yul didn’t do anything much worse or much better than he does in practice. It’s great Yul has kept up – he came in here and did his job,” coach Mark Williams said. “He came in here hoping to have a good day and compete well and he went through each exercise without any mistakes.” Moldauer played it safe rather than risk it in his first Worlds final despite knowing gold would go to a new champion for the first time in nearly a decade with Japan’s six-time all-around champion Kohei Uchimura out due to injury.

The American may have hoped the contenders would make mistakes and bring him closer to the podium. And while Verniaiev faltered, 2015 silver medalist Manrique Larduet of Cuba and Russia’s David Belyavskiy were among those that challenged the medalists right to the final apparatus in a dramatic final.

“I definitely felt nerves and I definitely felt like I had to represent my country,” Moldauer said. “Of course, we all wish I could have done better and won some hardware but I think for my first Worlds, it was pretty good.”

Moldauer started well on the pommel horse with an improved score (14.000) from qualifying before dropping back on the rings (14.066). He again fell below his qualifying score in the vault (14.500) but stayed in the mix and remained upbeat and full of positive energy. He thrust his arms upward in celebration following a solid routine on the parallel bars (14.533) but the judges again felt it wasn’t quite up to his qualifying standard.

But the belief paid off with an improved close on the horizontal bar where he stuck a full-twisting double layout for 13.333 before wrapping up with a 14.566 on his favored floor exercise.

“I’m going to work on my weaker events and add more difficulty. And on my stable events just clean it up and add a little here and there so I don’t have any more 13s,” said Moldauer, who was already looking forward to the floor final.

“Anything can happen. I’m just going to try and go int there and stick everything.”