Scott Keswick's face was just about purple when it was over.
He'd just nailed his vault -- a hand-spring into a front somersault with one-and-a-half twists. Very tough stuff. And very world class. And the judges awarded him a 9.8 out of 10.
"I'd been overpowering everything all night," Keswick said, "and to go out and nail it like that just felt so good."
Keswick, who took first place on his first routine and held it for 12 events, overpowered everyone to win the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials at the Baltimore Arena last night.
And with such a convincing performance, Keswick served noticed that the American men, missing in action since they won all that gold in Los Angeles in 1984, were back on the Olympic scene.
"Since I started gymnastics, this has been my goal," Keswick said. "Now it is here."
"I don't think we've had a better gymnast since 1984," said U.S. men's Olympic coach Francis Allen of Nebraska. "Scott is a rock, and he competed like one. We're gonna win medals with this guy."
UCLA teammate Chris Waller, whose straight-body Tkatchev on the high bar was good enough for a 9.95, finished in second place after a set of optional routines peppered with just the stuff the American men will need to succeed in Barcelona.
"I don't want to let up know," Waller said. "We want to win medals. We want to kick butt."
John Roethlisberger, the NCAA all-around champion from Minnesota who won the U.S. crown last month, finished third after a bad breakdown on the vault cost him a hard-earned trip from fourth to second.
But he completed an unusual triple -- the third member of his family, after father, Fred, and sister, Marie, to make an Olympic team.
"I wanted to be part of that tradition," Roethlisberger said. "I'm really proud of my family. It was important to me to do this."
And Jair Lynch, the third athlete with Maryland roots to make the U.S. gymnastics team, was fourth after scoring 9.9 on the pommel horse and the vault -- the highest scores of the night -- and a 9.85 on the high bar. Lynch, who grew up in Washington and trained in Columbia, was expected to do well here, but to actually make the 1996 team?
"I came up hard and fast, but they knew I was coming," said Lynch, a member of Stanford's NCAA championship team. "I worked for this for a year. I'm not surprised."
Lynch scored three 9.9s in 12 routines during the trials. Allen said Lynch's confidence on the vault,pommel horse and high bar will spread to the other events.
"We're going to be able to capitalize on his rising stardom."
Trent Dimas and Dominick Minicucci, a 1988 Olympian from Temple, made the team with fifth and sixth-place finishes.
"I couldn't sleep last night, I couldn't eat, I couldn't keep anything in my stomach," said Dimas, who trains at Gold Cup Gym in Albuquerque, N.M. "You can't believe what this is like."
And Lance Ringnald, the new hot kid on the 1988 Olympic team but the newly repaired body on this team, made the squad as an alternate by knowing exactly the score he needed on his final routine, hopping on the parallel bars and getting it.
But it was his 9.95 high-bar routine that was good as any he ever did before he ripped the muscle in his chest last September.
Ringnald, just happy to be in a gym again after what could have been career-ending injury, cried during the closing ceremonies. "The last four years have been a lifetime within a lifetime," Ringnald said. "I can't explain all the emotions I'm feeling. I just know I don't want to wake up.
"In 1988, I was like a chicken with my head cut off," said Ringnald, who celebrated his 22nd birthday yesterday. "Now I know what it means."
The pressure last night was chilling and gymnasts were making schoolboy mistakes as often as they were hitting world-class tricks.
"We've got some old-timers," Allen said. "We've got some new blood. It's a good team.
"This is a team we can win a medal with."
Allen plans to build around Keswick, who has finished second to Roethlisberger in three big meets, including last month's U.S. Championships, but he took first place on the first event Friday night and never looked back.
Keswick nearly medaled at the world championships last September, but the injury to Ringnald appeared to take the wind out of his sails -- and those of the U.S. team, which finished fifth.
"They know Scott Keswick out there [in international gymnastics], and they know he is coming," Allen said.
"Keswick, Waller, Roethlisberger. We're gonna get a lot of mileage out of these guys."
All-around standings (combined score: 30 percent U.S. championships, 70 percent Olympic trials) -- 1, Scott Keswick, UCLA, 116.022 points. 2, Chris Waller, UCLA, 115.200. 3, John Roethlisberger, Minnesota, 114.978. 4, Jair Lynch, Stanford, 114.854. 5, Trent Dimas, Gold Cup, 114.428. 6, Dominick Minicucci, Temple, 114.394. 7, Lance Ringnald, Gold Cup, 114.098. 8, Chainey Umphrey, UCLA, 114.020. 9, Jarrod Hanks, Oklahoma, 114.002. 10, Patrick Kirksey, Nebraska, 113.102. 11, Mark Warburton, Nebraska, 112.946. 12, Dennis Harrison, Nebraska, 112.484. 13, Bob Stelter, Nebraska, 112.238. 14, Jay Caputo, OTC, 111.906. 15, Kyle Asano, Stanford, 111.560. 16, Kurt Thomas, OTC, 111.060. 17, Mark McKiernan, Minnesota, 110.830. 18, Tom Schlesinger, Nebraska, 109.940. 19, Charles Lakes, Olympica Sun, 109.556. 20, Tim Ryan, Stanford, 81.312 ++ (Did not compete Saturday because of an injury).