As this eventful month of gymnastics comes to a close, here’s a smattering of little details seen and heard around the Xcel Center in St. Paul:
— New skills for Kyla Ross. The two-time junior national champion may have finished runner-up to Katelyn Ohashi this year, but Ross said that she is already working some big new skills that could have a huge impact on her Olympic contender status.
Ross said she is hoping to upgrade to a double Arabian off beam within the next 12 months, and is also working a Khorkina II transition on uneven bars. Both skills would boost her already high start values on both events. If she can master them, as well as her already-competed three times Amanar vault, she’ll endear herself even more to Martha Karolyi.
— Katelyn’s confidence booster. Ohashi never felt great confidence in meets before this U.S. Championships, her third at the elite level. A book — Mind Gym (Ohashi didn’t know the author) — helped her a lot, she said. Seems like it paid off. Best guess is the book is Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence, by Gary Mack and David Casstevens. Here’s the Amazon description:
Drawing on his work with some of the top teams in professional sports, noted sport psychology consultant Gary Mack shares with you the same techniques and exercises he uses to help elite athletes build mental “muscle.” These 40 accessible lessons and inspirational anecdotes will help you gain the “head edge” over the competition.
— Katelyn Ohashi and Jordyn Wieber, you’ve just won the U.S. Gymnastics Championships. What are you going to do next? Three words, both said: Mall of America.
— McKayla Maroney’s pretty multi-colored petal leotard for day two of the U.S. Championships was reportedly designed by her All Olympia coach Galina Marinova.
— Overheard on the floor during the junior men’s final: “I’m hungry!” (Boys. Seriously.)
— How cool is it to train with Jonathan Horton and Chris Brooks at Cypress Academy in Houston? Besides all the good stuff in the gym, the guys take time to have fun outside it too. For the Cypress guys who made it to the U.S. Championships, Horton and Brooks hosted a pre-championships sleepover chez Horton, said Hunter Justus, who finished tied for seventh in the 14-15 age division.
What do guys do at a gymnastics sleepover? Eat food and play video games, Justus said. Then run around chasing each other with water guns.
— The Great Waters brewpub in St. Paul created a drink especially in honor of the Visa Championships. The “POMmel horse” is a blend of bicardi limon, cointreau and pomegranate juice and was created especially for the meet.
— Foreign reactions. Eric from French gymnastics site GymNet after the competition: “You know, all this makes me think that finally ‘Make It or Break It’ is not so far from the U.S. reality!”
— Money quote. Heard outside the hotel bar across the street from the arena after men’s finals: “Why do they give the guys flowers [on the podium]? Why not give them something they really want, like beer?”
— The other Johnson in St. Paul (besides Shawn) was Spencer Johnson, who is also from West Des Moines, Iowa and has trained at Chow’s Gymnastics and Dance as well as Cypress Academy. How did Johnson, who is 24, get serious about gymnastics? As a youngster in his first gymnastics classes, Johndon watched other boys get called to do demonstrations for the coach as moves were explained.
“Gee, I’d like to be the one being recognized as good and getting called to do demos,” Johnson thought to himself. It took some work and some time, but eventually Johnson was Demo Man — and a whole lot more.
Although Johnson had a nightmare competition the first day and did not qualify to compete in the second session of day two, he is by no means giving up on his Olympic dreams. It seems the U.S. has a Scott Chandler situation on its hands (two gymnastics geek points if you know who Scott Chandler is): “I don’t care if I’m 34 and the oldest gymnast around,” he told The Des Moines Register. “I’m keeping the dream alive. I want to be the U.S. hockey team of gymnasts.”
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