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(Reuters) - Brody Malone backed up his win at the U.S. National Championships by taking the lead after Day 1 of the United States Olympic gymnastics trials on Thursday, as the Tokyo men's team began to come into focus.
Malone, who claimed his first national title three weeks ago, was back on top again in St. Louis and in pole position to claim the one automatic berth on the men's squad after taking the lead in the all-around competition with a score of 85.250.
Only the first place finisher after Day 2 on Saturday locks up an Olympic spot.
Second place could also grab a Tokyo ticket but only if he places in the top three on at least three of the six apparatus.
The two remaining places on the team will be decided by a selection committee along with 'plus-one' quota spot in an individual event.
Malone delivered another consistent performance, finishing in the top three on four apparatus. He took top marks on the high bar (14.450), tied for first on the floor with Sam Mikulak (14.600), was second on rings (14.200) and third on parallel bars.
Shane Wiskus is second on 84.300 and Yul Moldauer third with 83.650. Mikulak, bidding for a spot on a third Olympic team, is fourth 83.200.
"The goal is to make the team so however I do, whatever I do, I will be proud of that," said Mikulak, a six-time U.S. national champion. "Right now I'm just happy to be here, be healthy.
"If I can't make the team I'm going to go to North Carolina and enjoy my time with my family."
The men return to the arena on Saturday while the women take over on Friday with Simone Biles stepping into the spotlight looking to confirm her place on the U.S. team.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Peter Rutherford)