Massachusetts native Frederick Richard leads the USA men’s gymnastics team with a chance to win a medal

Frederic Richard envisioned this long ago. Entire.

The confetti, the bright lights, and the adrenaline rush of hearing his name called as an Olympic champion.

The charismatic 20-year-old, who has made it his life’s mission to make men’s gymnastics relevant in the United States, knew that reaching the Olympics would be a vital step in that process.

And now it’s definitely here.

RichardThe five-man team from Stoughton, Massachusetts, will head to Paris next month with a legitimate chance at a medal after winning the Olympic Trials on Saturday.

“It’s like a new mountain in my life, and I’m ready to climb it,” Richard said.

It certainly looks like it. Richard posted a stunning two-day total of 170.500 points in the trials, narrowly ahead of three-time national champion Brodie Malone’s 170.300.

Richard, known asFrederick Phillips“To his hundreds of thousands of social media followers, he has spent years trying to push men’s gymnastics into the spotlight with creative, viral videos that often involve collaborations with athletes in other sports.

The lights couldn’t be brighter than the ones Richard and his Olympic teammates Malone, Asher Hong, Paul Judah and Steven Niedorocek, originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, will compete under at Percy Arena.

Worcester native Stephen Niedorowski is competing on the pommel horse at the USA Gymnastics Olympic Trials. (Abby Barr/AP)

Nine months after claiming a bronze medal at the 2023 World Championships — the first for the men’s program in a major international competition in nearly a decade — Richard and the rest of the Americans believe they can achieve even more this summer.

“It feels like we shouldn’t even be aiming for a medal,” said Richard, who also took bronze in the all-around at last fall’s world championships. “We should be aiming for gold and we’ll get there.”

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The Americans have spent the past three years overhauling their program after their podium finish at the Tokyo Olympics. They’ve revamped their scoring system, offering extra points at local meets for athletes who attempt more challenging skills.

The goal was to close the overall difficulty gap that had developed between the United States and the superpowers China and Japan. When the Americans greeted the judges for their first event in Tokyo, they were already six points behind, the difference in the cumulative difficulty of their routines compared to the teams they were chasing.

That lead will drop to two points when the United States pulls back during Olympic qualifying on July 27, giving it a legitimate chance to take the podium.

“(We’re) in a much different situation now,” said Brett McClure, director of high performance. “We will be able to control our own destiny.”

And they will do that with Malone, 24, whose career was nearly derailed by a devastating right knee injury in March 2023. After three surgeries, 15 months and countless hours of physical therapy, Malone’s knee isn’t perfect, but it’s better. His gymnastics might be, too.

Malone has methodically managed to come back from the brink, although the last few weeks have been a blur. He didn’t establish a full floor routine until May, though he didn’t look completely rusty. He claimed a national title earlier this month and would have edged Richard at the trials if it weren’t for his high – by his standards – routine on Saturday.

Considering where he was last fall when he watched the men’s program that was supposed to be his standard-bearer between Tokyo and Paris without him, Malone will take it more than that.

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“It snuck up on me really quickly and I’m so grateful to all the medical staff and everyone that helped me get back to this point, I really wouldn’t have been able to do it without them,” Malone said.

Judah and Hong, members of last year’s world championship team, will join Malone and Richard as the core of the relatively young American team. Niedorocic turns 25, Malone turns 24, and Judah turns 23 on July 7. Richard and Hong are all 20 years old.

From left to right, Brodie Malone, Steven Niedorocik, Asher Hong, Paul Judah, Frederic Richard, Qui Young and Shane Weskus celebrate after being named to the 2024 Olympic Gymnastics Team at the USA Gymnastics Olympic Trials on Saturday, June 29, 2024, in Minneapolis.  (Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)
From left to right, Brodie Malone, Steven Niedorosik, Asher Hong, Paul Judah, Frederick Richard, Qui Young and Shane Weskus celebrate after being named to the 2024 Olympic gymnastics team at the U.S. Gymnastics Olympic Trials on Saturday, June 29, 2024 in Minneapolis. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

The quiet and humble Juda broke down in tears several times following the match, while Hong was relieved after a somewhat nightmare performance at the national championships – partly due to what he believes was harsh treatment by the judges who gave him little room for error before the trials.

“It was like a battle between me and the judges,” Hong said. “That was kind of the goal. Like, ‘Try to find something (wrong) with this routine, I dare you.’”

Khoi Young and Shane Weskus will serve as alternates. Weskus, a member of the 2020 Olympic team, is retiring at the end of the competition season. The Minnesota native — who left his home state shortly after the University of Minnesota cut its men’s program — drank up every ovation in what could be the final performance of his career.

As Whiskus moves away, Richard prepares to move on to the height of his glory. He began referring to Paris long ago while growing up in the Boston suburbs. Now the moment has finally arrived and he’s keen to show that there’s a lot of substance behind all the showmanship.

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“I want to be a medal-winning Olympic athlete, that’s who I am. There’s always more to do. I’m excited to keep striving for that,” he said.

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