2021 US Championships Senior Competition International Broadcast

Men's Gymnastics Selection Procedures, Motivation & Mental Health Wellness

Men's Gymnastics Selection Procedures, Motivation & Mental Health Wellness

Sam Mikulak was joined by national teammates as they talked to the U.S. Championship Media Day press.

Jun 4, 2021 by Kelly Feng
Men's Gymnastics Selection Procedures, Motivation & Mental Health Wellness

Two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak admits he’s having a case of senioritis. He’s afflicted by senioritis, not because of a decline in his gymnastic, but because he’s finding himself becoming sentimental.

Mikulak is living in the moment, realizing those moments in his gymnastic career won’t go on forever. He knows he needs to revel in the glory of this competition as he plans to retire after Tokyo

Mikulak was joined by national teammates Brody Malone, Sam Mikulak, Akash Modi, Yul Moldauer, and Shane Wiskus, talking to the U.S. Championship Media Day press. 

However, the big question of the day wasn’t about sentiment but fairness. Nothing sparked more conversation and questions from the media than the updated Olympic team selection procedures. 

In previous quads, both the U.S. championships and the Olympic Trials scores were factored into whether a gymnast was named to the Olympic team. This year, due to the Pan American Games occurring on the same weekend as Nationals, the selection procedure was updated. 

The update means those that compete in the Pan American Games in Rio this weekend automatically qualify for the Olympic trials. Because the two competitions compete simultaneously, instead of factoring both the championships and the trials into team selection, only the Olympic trial scores will count. 

Refueled Motivation

Although Akash Modi’s most recent “big” competition was the 2020 Winter Cup, he did compete at the Cypress Meet last December and at the Galveston Beach Blast earlier this year. Modi’s thankful for those opportunities, as he was able to show more upgrades and difficulties in his routines. 

When asked about the new selection procedures, Modi said there were pros and cons. He noted that this year, there are only two days of competition that count in the span of three days. Whereas in the past, the gymnasts had four competition days within three weeks to show readiness. 

Nevertheless, Modi feels the selection procedure is the fairest compromise. He mentioned the Pan Am team, currently in Rio, vying for an additional spot for TeamUSA. 

“They’re [the Pan Am team} going out there and putting themselves at risk. Who knows what can happen in international travel right now to get our country our spot. So it’s the most fair [selection procedure] to go based on Olympic trials results.”

Modi, a reserve athlete on the 2016 Men’s Team, reflected on his experience in 2016 compared to what he’s experiencing in 2021. 

“It was hard to go to Rio and keep working and keep practicing up until the meet started. To have all that work not count and just watch the guys compete. That’s fueled me and has given me an idea of what had helped me last time,” Modi said. 

Modi says the experience helped him learn what put him in an alternate position than those he competed with last time.

“I have both the drive to not be an alternate because I had already done it once before, and I know what it takes and what works for me the best I can be.” 

Watch Modi's control and extensions on parallel bars through the years. 

Using His Platform

Fan-favorite Yul Moldauer didn’t seem fazed by the selection process, saying it was nothing new to him, and they’ve known about it a long time. He believes it’s the fairest thing the committee can do.

Earlier this year, Moldauer spoke about the racial discrimination he has experienced. Given his platform and the United States Olympic Committee allowing athletes to express themselves at the Olympic games, he might take advantage of that opportunity. 

“When you have a platform, you should be able to use it without consequences. It’s been uplifting ever since I’ve shared my story. I’m thankful people are noticing. I think the more [people] can speak, the more intention, the more they can change lives for people.“ 

Check out Moldauer's flair work on the floor at :37 seconds. 

Competition Experience

Brody Malone, the NCAA 2021 all-around and high bar champion, feels the selection procedure was communicated well. 

With an upgraded high bar routine that he’s been training all year, it’s all about the Stanford’s gymnast’s mindset this weekend. “One routine at a time. Six for six,” Brody said. 

Here he's competing his jam-packed high bar during the 2021 NCAA Championships last April. 

Although the committee won’t be counting the U.S. Championships scores, Shane Wiskus feels the competition is crucial. 

Even if the results aren’t counted, Wiskus values the experience and will compete with full difficulty. The routines he’s competing for Championships will be the same full difficulty he will be doing for trials. Wiskus believes this weekend’s meet is an opportunity for his routines to get set in stone. 

He credits his college experience competing routines week after week with his mental preparation. Saying it is a privilege to have the competition experience. 

“It’s an opportunity for me to show how good I am. Just go out and get comfortable. Get used to the lights and get used to the fans again, hopefully. It’s another opportunity to get better, and that’s how I’m treating it,” Wiskus said.

Wiskus is known for his one-arm catches on the high bar but don’t forget about his other events, especially the parallel bars where he showcases lovely lines, toe point and control. 

Mental Health Rediscovery

When it comes to the two-time Olympian’s chances of making another Olympic team, most gymnastic enthusiasts think Mikulak’s nearly a lock for the Olympics. But an Olympic spot is not necessarily on his mind these days. Instead, Mikulak takes a moment to mention his mental health rediscovery. 

Mikulak, who recently participated in a mental health awareness panel, finds more appreciation in what’s he’s done. He reflects on his career, saying he always wanted more accomplishments. Today, he’s just happy to be out on the competition floor. 

"I'm here, trying to mitigate my expectations and not put too much pressure on myself." He has advice for younger athletes. 

One goal is for Mikulak to take some time off after the Olympics to think about his future. The six-time 6-time U.S. AA Champion has considered everything from being a realtor to conducting gymnastic clinics post-career, will be taking a couple of months off to figure out what he will be doing. 

Mikulak has another goal. He wants to encourage younger athletes to think about their identity but not make their identity through the prism of the sport. 

“If you think that being the best gymnast is going to make you feel fulfilled, that‘s not the way to go. You need to find out who you are,” Mikulak said.  

Mikulak is adamant an athlete needs to find their values, for example, asking themself if gymnastics is a way for you to help other people.  

“Finding those types of reasons through the sport are going to give you satisfaction through the sport.”

Mikulak’s candor about mental health was so refreshing he was asked if he would consider a speaking tour with gymnast Morgan Hurd, who’s also been outspoken on various issues. 

“I’d be down for that. I need a job after this!” 

Mikulak | 2012-2019 High Bar