Freshman Paul Juda didn’t let the pressure get to him.
He didn’t let being in his first collegiate gymnastics season stop his success. He didn’t let the tough curriculum of Michigan’s Electrical Engineering Department erode his resolve. He didn’t let the pressures of freshman year break him. He even has a midterm next week in his Polish language class.
Through it all, Juda and junior Cameron Bock flew to Las Vegas in the middle of the semester.
And now Michigan has one of the four NCAA gymnasts on the United States Senior National Team.
Juda qualified for the team this weekend among one of professional gymnastics’ toughest fields. The weekend culminates in the selection of the United States Senior National Team. The top six all-around athletes automatically secure spots on the team.
The Winter Cup Challenge is also the qualifying event for the 2020 USA Gymnastics Competition, where gymnasts then compete for a spot on the USA Olympic Team.
Juda and Bock were the only two Wolverine gymnasts to travel to Las Vegas for the event. Bock finished 13th overall with a score of 81.250 and placed third in the floor routine.
In addition to his third place finish in the high-bar event, Juda had a strong performance in all events in which he competed. He finished the two sessions with a combined score of 81.650 and finished third all-around, securing him a spot on the Senior National Team.
“I felt extremely prepared,” Juda said. “I think the number of competitions that I’ve been doing with Michigan has improved my comfortability in my gymnastics a lot, so because of that this weekend felt just like another practice, and it went very well.”
Although he’s only in his first collegiate season, Juda has been a standout for Michigan, most recently winning all-around against Oklahoma and having a top three finish in all events he competed in.
Beyond his individual performance, Juda credits his success to the support of his teammates and assistant coach Xiao Xuan, in particular. Xuan — a three-time NCAA champion himself — taps his own experience to help Juda and the team.
“My team is incredible. The chemistry is out of this world,” Juda said. “I’m beyond thankful for coach Xiao. He’s extremely well versed in these training programs. He knows what to do, he knows how to do it.
“They’re extremely focused on developing my character and my abilities and they care about my emotional health, mental health, physical health. They’re not just there to run my body dry.”
In addition to competing in college, Juda is an Olympic hopeful and took his first step towards competing by securing a spot on the United States Senior National Team.
“Towards the end of this year I have the Big Ten championship and the NCAA finals,” Juda said. “Post NCAA if all goes well I’ve been prequalified to the 2020 USA Championships, and if that goes well I’ll be hopefully qualified for the US Olympic Trials.”
All while finishing his freshman year.