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March 08, 2004 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-03-08

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8B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - March 8, 2004


195 y

I don't have any superstitions or anything.
I say a prayer to myself before I go on any
event, but I don't feel any nerves or anything.
It's more like a playtime for me to show off.
It's my time to show everyone how strong I
am - I can get the ladies to turn their heads
a little bit, go up there, and show everyone
that I'm the strongest guy in the gym. When
I salute, it's just 110 percent confidence that
this is going to be the best routine in the gym
and nobody can beat me on this event.
My first skill is called an Azarian roll to a
cross. I just think about pulling hard and
locking into my lats (back muscles). Then I
get into an L-cross position and hold it, and
I pull up to a skill called a Maltese. For that,
I think about pulling out as fast as I can
because you don't see too many people pull
out fast, and the faster you pull out the easi-
er it looks. The judges really like that. I do
another Azarian to a cross and I think about

getting my arms straight and holding a little
bit longer than the other skills. I give a little
head nod to the crowd to show off a little
bit. I dismount with a double layout and I
just think about swinging as hard as I can
and trying to stick it.
It always hurts, always - especially the
cross. The cross is the most painful skill, and
every time I do it I feel like my shoulders are
going to come out. It's just a painful skill. I
think the pain starts before you get up there
because you just know that the whole rou-
tine is going to hurt. You know that all the
strength, like the cross, is going to kill you.
The Maltese is going to hurt, and you
have to swing and come through the bot-
tom. I am a lot heavier than the other guys
- I'm like 180. It's definitely harder for
me to pull myself up. So when I come to
the bottom it's pretty painful. But it's all
worth it once you get down and get that
stick. The crowd goes crazy, and that's the
biggest reward. I love the audience. I love
to get the audience's response.

1 .1 . - . MMRZW

Everyone knows it's one of the toughest
events out there because it requires a lot of bal-
ance. When you get nervous, it's really hard. A
lot of guys fall under the pressure. One thing I
think about, the first thing I think about, is that
I can either go out there and be a predator, or I
can be the prey. So I go out there and I attack
the event. I always tell myself that there is no
way I am going to come off this event. I tell
myself I'm going to fight to the end.
When I salute, I go to the horse, take a deep
breath, get focused and think about being calm
and relaxed. And when I start my routine, I try
to make sure that I'm extended, stretched and I
keep good form. All the way through, all I think
about is squeezing my legs tight and keeping
good form. It's especially tough if you have a
lot of pressure on you. One thing I think about
is just being calm and relaxed and also being

aggressive at the same time. When I get to the
scissors, I feel like I'm home free. I am ready to
go, my adrenaline is going, and I am close to
being done with the routine. I just think about
not taking any break and being tight and finish-
ing my routine. And when I land, the job's done.
Fortunately, I haven't had too many problems
with injuries. I had a wrist surgery, so that hurts
every once in a while. But when I get going, the:
adrenaline takes care of all that. It's like my
pain killer. It's really hard on the wrists and the
elbows and arms. I don't think it's one of the
hardest events training-wise, but it's hard when
it comes down to the whole team sitting there
and counting on you in the NCAA finals.
When it comes down to a situation like that,
there's not one event that's tougher to do. When
your nerves get going, you throw your weight
over too much on one side, right off the horse,
and there goes your championship. There are
18 other guys on your team and they are allj
counting on you. So it's more mental.

Men's Gymnastics f Dummies
Explained by six members of the Michigan men's team:
With Ian Herbert and Julie Master 0 Daily Sports Writers - Photos by Tony Ding Daily Photo Editor

How much do you really know
about men's gymnastics? Did
you have any idea that it is comn-
prised of six events? Or that
some gymnasts specialize in one
or two events, while others com-
pete in the all-around competi-
tion? Did you know that
Michigan has a national champi-
on and three Junior National
Champions on its roster?
The men's gymnastics team is a
group of the strongest and most
charismatic athletes on campus,
but nobody knows what they do.
The Michigan Daily sat down
with the best Michigan gymnasts
for each of the six events.
They explained in detail the
intricacies and the most difficult
aspects of their events.
Read on to find out why
these six men are the best at
what they do.

Before I go, I try to go over the routine
once in my head with my eyes closed and I
think about every position and everything that
I will be doing. The first thing that I think
about is being aggressive, and the first worry
that's on my mind is the grip on the bars. So I
make sure before I go that I can grip it real
well. I put honey on my hands, and I put
honey on the bars, then I put chalk on my
hands, and then chalk on the bars - then a
little bit more honey, a little bit more chalk,
and I feel the grip. I just try to get all the
doubt that's in my head out.
The hardest skill of the whole routine, a
Peach Half, is early. I have to worry about
every little thing like my feet separating, my
arms bending, my lower back being loose, my
legs bending, anything like that. The next skill
is a stutz. I think about swinging hard, trying to

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The whole thing for me is to make sure I take everything
one skill at a time. Before I go, I just try and clear my mind4
and go over some last minute corrections. It helps me to
think of one or two words rather than a whole bunch of
thoughts at once. So I'll think of "feet through" com-
ing out of my round-off, or just to "punch hard," "be
aggressive," "stay tight" - stuff like that.
Usually I can feel right away if I'm going to bed
on or off, or how hard it's going to be for me. I
salute to the judge and think to do it like I did it in
practice. My first two passes are my hardest, so
that's the majority of my routine. The second half
is kind of a relief once I get through that. I really
concentrate on staying tight, my timing, looking
for things visually in the air and sticking my land-
ings. In the air, I concentrate on the floor and try
to keep my head neutral. If my head is out, I can
get lost in the air, and that's bad news.
On floor, the big thing is five-tenth combinations
because we need to get the bonus in our routines in
order to start from a high start value. The higher we
start from, the higher we score. The hard thing about that'
is that we aren't allowed to repeat any skills. So in order to
have two sequences of three skills, you have to have more
skills. I start at a 9.8, but a 10.0 has been in the works since the
beginning of the season. We've been striving for consistency. The
big thing is that I have wrist problems. I've had three wrist surgeries.
And my legs get sore, but they haven't really given me any major problems.

Before I go on, I try to visualize the vault in my head. I start
at the same spot every time, 68 feet from where I hit the
board. The front of the board has to be set two feet away
from the vault. The first two steps I run are really slow. It
sort of calms me down. But I put everything I have
into the run because it's like a sprint. I hurdle, and
when I hit the board I try to get my feet in front of
me and stay tight using my stomach muscles.
Coming off the vault, I try to drive my heels down
and my chest up to get ready for the twist. When
I'm up, I spot for the ground, and then I pull my
twist down and drive my heels to the ground.
The run is the most important part. Some peo-
ple count their steps when they're going, but I try
to concentrate on other things like the vault and
the board. Even if you are good on the board, you
have to be good on the vault. If you're not as good
on the board, you can fix it, alter it, or change your
body position to make it a good vault. After I get off
the vault and start twisting, I can tell how I'm going
to land. Sometimes though, I think I'm going to do
well so I don't try as hard and it doesn't end up well.
I try and picture my 2003 NCAA Championship vault.
Since I've done it so many times, it's ingrained in my head.
The biggest thing is that I have to get all of the negative thoughts
out. It's a lot mental, especially coming back from my ankle injury
(which held me out the start of this season). I know how to do it, and I
know I can do it well, but I am still tentative. And if I'm tentative it's hard

I'm kind of superstitious, so before I
go I always have my Nike wristbands
facing down. I always make sure that I
don't have too much chalk, but just the
right amount. I like it on my hands, but
not on my grips because sometimes I
slip when there is too much on the
grips. Before every high bar routine I
think about legs because one problem
that I have is keeping my legs together.
Usually I have good extension, but I
sometimes break form, so that's what I

focus on. I always worry about the two
sequences in my routine because they
are the hardest ones. My first sequence
is a five-tenths sequence. Then after that
I swing into the middle to get space to
do my second sequence. I worry about
getting my hand back on in time so I
don't fall off the bar. And I worry about
staying tight because staying in control
helps me stay on the bar.;
Usually after the two sequences, I
take a breather and just focus on stay-
ing clean for the rest of the routine. I'm
pretty tired by then. My hands are
always hurting and sometimes they get

really hot. And my shoulders get tired.:
So when I am doing all the twisting,
my shoulders will give out. I've never,
really had that many crashes. That's
what hurts: crashing. Then I do a,
Pirouette and then a Gienger, which is
my release. It's a pretty easy release,
and I don't worry about it too much.
That's when I am usually really tired,
and I have to push hard for the dis-
mount, which is a double layout, full
twist. The dismount is really hard for
me because I don't twist that well. But
I try to stay open, keep my legs togeth-
er, and stay down for the dismount.

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