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By John Powers
Chris Brooks wasn't sure that he wanted to stick around for another quadrennium after the London Games. After what he calls a 'career of almosts', how many times could he handle being an alternate?
"I blame (Jonathan) Horton," Brooks joked Sunday afternoon after he'd finished a best-ever second to four-time champion Sam Mikulak at the P&G Gymnastics Championships in Hartford, Conn. "He was like, man, just four more years. It's not that bad. We can do it. I said, yeah, let's do this. But he was starting from up here and I was starting from down here. But I'm glad that I stuck with it. I felt I owed it to myself to go another four years just so that later in life, I wouldn't regret not going in."
After an encouraging weekend inside the XL Center the 29-year-old Brooks, who was an alternate in 2012, is within reach of making his first Olympic team. What it will take is for him to remain in the top two in the all-around at the St. Louis trials later this month and also place among the top three in half of the six events. That would guarantee Brooks an automatic spot on the five-man team for Rio de Janeiro and, he says, 'take the selection out of the selection'.
"It would be absolutely amazing to automatically lock but the realistic part is, I've got to be top three on a third event," he said. "I think right now I'm sitting in a pretty good position on p-bars and high bar but it's going to take something special to pull ahead in that third position on a third event."
Brooks had one of his best days on Sunday, posting a 15.800 to win the p-bars title and a 15.900 to place second on high bar. Even if he can't crack the top three in a third event, an upsurge in his horse scores at trials might get him picked for a spot.
"It's always a tossup as far as how the team is going to be put together, especially in a five-man situation," Brooks said. "I think I made a good case for myself for at least an alternate position as far as these two competitions. But I definitely have got to continue proving myself as a worthy competitor."
His showing in Hartford, where Brooks posted eight scores of 15.000 or better, affirmed his reputation as a reliable top-five performer. "I think I'm on the right road," he reckoned. "I think I proved that I'm a player for sure but I've got to go out there at Olympic trials and do the same thing."
Brooks came close enough to making the team four years ago in San Jose that he decided that it was worth taking another run at it. "Being the alternate the first time it's: 'I've got what it takes, I just didn't quite get the job done'. That's what pushed you the whole time...Remind yourself that you had what it takes at one point, you can do it again."