The most important 15 minutes of Sam Mikulaks daily routine doesnt come in the gym or the weight room. They usually take place early in the morning, shortly after he pulls himself out of bed at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.There in the stillness, the best American male gymnast of his generation turns his mind into a blank slate. Nothing is allowed in. Not worries about whether he can find a way to combine consistency with his considerable talent. Not concerns about the ankles that are always one iffy landing away from disaster. Not the stakes as he prepares himself for another Olympic moment, one with significantly higher stakes than four years ago in London.If a thought comes into my head, I recognize it and I do a mental swipe left with my eyes, Mikulak said. And then Im back to breathing and fall into a rhythm that can train me to negate any thoughts that arent necessary when Im competing on the big stage.Like the one that awaits in Brazil, when the 23-year-old spearheads a five-man U.S. team eager to re-establish itself after a nightmarish fifth-place finish in 2012. Back then, Mikulak was a teenager, a college student and an event specialist. Now hes likely the only American competing in the all-around, a testament to the way hes separated himself from his teammates.Yet for all his supremacy at home, where he is one of two men to win four straight national titles, Mikulak has yet to experience a true breakthrough moment internationally. He has just one world championship medal to his credit, a team bronze in 2014. That also happens to be the last time he was on the floor with Kohei Uchimura of Japan, the defending Olympic champion heavily favored to do it again in Rio de Janeiro.On the surface, they could not be more different. Uchimura is soft-spoken and reserved. Mikulak is prone to break into dance during a meet and speaks in a surfer dude cadence that betrays his Southern California roots.Yet their gymnastics are strikingly similar in their aggressive quest for elegance.I feel like Im following in his footsteps a little bit, Mikulak said. Hes one of the greatest gymnasts of all time. Its nice to be on the same path. My goal is to apply a little pressure.The only surefire way to do it is to avoid the small but persistent mistakes that tend to pop up early in competitions. Mikulak is well aware of his penchant for shaky starts like the one he endured on the opening night of Olympic Trials on June 25, when he flubbed his dismount on parallel bars and lost momentum on high bar.Not that it mattered in the end. Mikulak finished with his typical flourish and ultimately wound up well clear of Chris Brooks following four rounds of Olympic qualifying that spanned trials and the national championships.Its where Mikulak expected to be all along. Still, he knows hes at the time in his career when simply being the best among his buddies is no longer enough.The mindset going into the Olympics is Im not a top dog in the international scene like I am in the U.S., he said. There is a gap I need to overcome.Going six for six -- meaning getting through each apparatus clean -- would be a start. Asked when the last time he put together a day like that, Mikulak points to the 2013 American Cup while simultaneously shaking his head in disbelief.Its been a while, he allowed. I need that sense of urgency that I crave at the end, I need that in the beginning.Nowhere do Mikulaks problems manifest themselves more than on high bar, gymnastics answer to a slam-dunk contest. Sitting nine feet off the floor, its an inviting canvas on which to paint. And when hes on, Mikulak can turn it into a thrill ride.The problem is, Mikulak isnt always on. At the 2014 world championships, coach Mark Williams benched Mikulak on high bar during the team final, opting for Jake Daltons more conservative -- and more dependable -- set.Its a decision Mikulak understood and why he comes to each meet now armed with three different high-bar routines, opting for the easiest during qualifying and saving the most difficult for the event final if he makes it that far.Call it a sign of maturity for an athlete who admits to putting too much pressure on himself to be perfect, something hes realized over the years is a futile pursuit. Now he searches for small moments of bliss during a given routine while trying to immediately hit delete when something doesnt go as planned.Thats where the meditation comes in, something he began incorporating while competing at Michigan. A psychology major, Mikulak found himself fascinated by the minds power to control the body not just by telling it what to do, but by telling it what not to do. Its gotten to the point where hes on autopilot the second he raises his hand to the judges.The breathing is what does it, he said. It blocks out anything that might tell you, `Oh tighten up. Or if theres a negative thought that will pop up when youre up there, the breathing will not let that thought come into your mind.So Mikulak zones out, his ears listening for the encouragement of his teammates but nothing else. Leave no doubt: They have his back. Theyd love nothing more than to see the guy who occasionally amazes during practice do the same thing for the whole world to see.He needs to go out there and handle that pressure, own the pressure and move on from there, good friend and Olympic alternate Donnell Whittenburg said. If he can hit, he can definitely give Uchimura a run.---Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP Cheap Under Armour Shoes ., and Rudi Swiegers of Kipling, Sask., took sixth spot on Saturday in pairs at the NHK Trophy ISU Grand Prix figure skating competition. Under Armour Clearance Sale . The deal is pending a physical, assistant general manager Bobby Evans said. Traded from Seattle to Baltimore on Aug. 30, Morse also can play first base and right field to give manager Bruce Bochy some flexibility in writing his lineup. http://www.cheapuashoes.com/ . LOUIS -- Rookie Tavon Austin has missed another day of practice, lessening the odds hell be ready for the St. Under Armour China Wholesale . -- Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson asked his players a simple question during Fridays morning shootaround: How many of them had ever been on a team 14 games over . Under Armour Outlet Store . -- Devin Hester is done returning kicks in Chicago. Jordan Rapana and his NRL club Canberra are in talks to extend the star wingers contract.Rapana, who scored 23 tries in a year where Raiders fell a win short of making the grand final, wants to stay at the club past his contracts end after next season.We are in negotiations with Jordan about 2018 and 2019, club chief executive Don Furner told News Corp Australia.Our aim is to keep him here and he knows that.Its a mattter of negotiating new terms for 2018 and 2019.ddddddddddddRapanas potential extended stay with Canberra will mean his successful right-edge partnership with Joey Leilua continues for at least two more seasons.Rapanas season was rewarded with selection in New Zealands Four Nations squad. 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