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Shane Wiskus dealt with his fair share of setbacks this year, but it hasn’t changed his goals. No matter what stands in his path, he has his sights set on Tokyo 2021.
Before the pandemic began, Wiskus was flying high, taking home the silver All-Around and vault medals at the 2020 Winter Cup.
He expected to finish his 2020 college season at the University of Minnesota strong, but instead, the coronavirus had other plans.
#Gophers take the home opener!— Minnesota Men's Gym (@GopherMGym) January 25, 2020
Shane Wiskus scores the highest parallel bars (15.100) and all-around (84.600) scores in the country this season for the titles and also takes the floor gold! pic.twitter.com/potbKsdfza
Due to COVID-19, The Gophers had to skip their final two meets of the year, along with the Big Ten and NCAA Championships, ending their 2020 season ranked tenth nationally.
“Half of my junior season was canceled, and I’d only competed in four out of the seven or eight competitions we’d had up until that point, so I felt like I’d even gotten more taken away from me than half the season. It felt like I’d hardly competed at all,” Wiskus shared.
Wiskus dealt with a canceled elite season at the same time his collegiate season was cut short. “While my college team was on quarantine and the pandemic was ramping up, I was still practicing at my club gym in Plymouth, and I was still getting ready for U.S. Championships, Olympic Trials, and hopefully the Olympics. As we got closer and closer our hopes of going to U.S. Championships got smaller and smaller, and eventually, they decided to call it right there, and shortly after, they canceled the Olympics,” he shared. “It was a tough couple of months, and motivation was definitely low. After all of that was taken away, it just felt like, what’s the point of going into the gym right now, my next competition isn’t going to be until next year.”
Whether he wanted to train or not, Wiskus wasn’t able to get inside the gym for a while. His coach brought over a pommel horse that they put in the grass outside, some Thera bands, and hung a pair of rings from the rafters.
“I was doing a lot of at-home workouts, so that was definitely new because my only workouts in the past have been in a gymnastics gym...we were doing ring strength, a lot of running, stretching, rehab, and pommel horse, and just doing basically anything that we could to maintain fitness during that time,” he stated.
Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic changed Wiskus’s 2020 season, it altered the lives of Gopher Men’s Gymnasts forever, when the school announced the decision to cut the Men’s Gymnastics program following the 2020-2021 season due to budget difficulties.
Though Wiskus is a senior this year and finishing his final year of NCAA eligibility, it was scarring news for his teammates, young gymnasts looking to go to UMN for college gymnastics, and Men’s Gymnastics programs everywhere, as many programs are being cut, endangering the future of the sport.
“One of my first thoughts was the kids who come to all of our home meets and sit in the front row. I grew up in the state of Minnesota, going to gymnastics meets, hoping that one day I could be on a college team myself,” Wiskus reflected.
“I think the biggest thing for me is that I want to give Minnesota gymnastics the sendoff it deserves. I just feel an obligation to have the best possible outcome.”
- Shane Wiskus
Recently, 2020 started to turn around for Shane. He competed at the Friendship and Solidarity competition in Tokyo, Japan, marking the first international competition back since the pandemic began.
The competition was lighthearted to ease back into competing, but even so, Wiskus showed up and had a great performance. Besides getting used to competing on an international stage again after so long, he tied for the third-highest floor score on the event out of all thirty athletes there. He scored a 14.200 on floor, a 14.000 on parallel bars, 12.700 on high bar, and a 12.700 on pommel horse.
Now Wiskus looks ahead to his senior collegiate season, knowing it’ll be a very different year ahead with so much uncertainty surrounding the competition schedule. Their first meet was canceled and although they are hopeful they will have some meets this season, he knows this may not be the case.
“We are cautiously optimistic that everything’s going to happen according to plan, but obviously, we know we’re not going to keep our hopes up and be devastated if meets get canceled. The one meet that I’m really hoping that happens is NCAAs. Anything else is just extra at that point,” he stated.
He also knows that while he may have big goals for his final college year, he has to be mindful of what a difficult time it is for everyone.
“I would love to have more national titles, I would love to get a team title, Big Ten titles, and basically a clean sweep the entire season. I think the most important part, realistically this year as a team captain, is just to make sure that everyone on my team is doing well mentally...this is a very tough time, so it doesn’t quite feel right to push outcome goals every day in the gym.”
Shane knows the difficulties this year poses, sharing that he’s spoken with his sports psychologist, “learning to handle it, accept the adversity, and move forward.” The uncertainty, he says, is the most difficult part.
“Anything can happen, like a day before a big competition someone could have a positive test and we would be disqualified. I think just having the uncertainty of not only having a season but not knowing if we’ll have the training.” Their team has already quarantined multiple times, most recently because of a teammate testing positive.
However the collegiate season turns out, Wiskus has a lot to look forward to after graduation, including Olympic Trials. To make his Olympic dream a reality, Wiskus is moving to Colorado Springs to train at the Olympic Training Center at the end of the month. He will finish his degree online, and return for any Gopher meets that occur.
“I’m really looking forward to moving there and having all the resources I need, all the staff and coaches, and knowledge that people have gained over the last couple of years, and really excited to see how hard I can push myself," he stated.
It was a difficult decision to move before graduation, but Wiskus eventually came to the conclusion that he couldn’t train by himself in an empty gym once the rest of his collegiate team is done.
“Originally, I was like ‘no, no way, I can’t move anywhere, I’m going to stay put with my team and ride out this final year,’ but with the uncertainty of what training would look like and also having the knowledge that I can still compete for the university brought me to that final conclusion, and made me decide to do what’s best for my future.”
This year has thrown a lot of uncertainty and tough decisions at Wiskus, but no matter what happens, his eyes are on one goal: the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.
“The immediate motivation is just to make an Olympic team. That’s pretty much all I need right now, is just having that goal down the line, and every day, making decisions and training hard and doing everything I need to do to make that goal.”
- Shane Wiskus