Rohan Sebastian: The Selfless Champion

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By Alex Taylor, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 14, 2013

In today’s culture of showboating and me-first attitudes, the search for an athlete who sacrifices himself or herself for the betterment of the team is few and far between.

However, all hope is not lost.

Meet Rohan Sebastian.

Sebastian, who just finished his collegiate career, collected two national championships and All-American honors during his time competing for Michigan gymnastics. Yet before any of the success, these accomplishments required Sebastian to make sacrifices along the way.

Sebastian, a top recruit coming into Michigan, had offers to compete at many of the top gymnastics programs in the nation. At these schools, Sebastian would have had the chance to be the star of the team and as a result would have been afforded the opportunity for many individual honors. While being an important piece of the team at Michigan, Rohan would not be the only superstar.

These differences made the decision process difficult. That is, until Sebastian took his recruiting trip to Michigan. On the visit, he was able to learn about the academic and athletic tradition of more than just the gymnastics programs at Michigan, as well as build a good relationship with the coaching staff. The combination of those elements pushed Sebastian to become a Wolverine.

“It was a difficult decision,” Sebastian said. “But having both the academic and the athletic aspect really made the decision on paper really simple.”

Upon his arrival at Ann Arbor, Sebastian had one goal in mind: to win a team NCAA championship.

Sebastian didn’t have to wait long for this goal to manifest itself, as in his freshman year the Wolverines won the NCAA team championship. Sebastian wasn’t simply a spectator during the run, but rather a key component competing on floor exercise, vault and rings in the finals. Heading into the last rotation, vault, Michigan found itself in third place and in need of a come-from-behind victory to secure the NCAA championship. Leading off for the Wolverines was Sebastian, who scored an impressive 15.60, helping Michigan pull off the upset and take home the national championship.

This wouldn’t be his last appearance on the national stage, though, as Michigan made it to the NCAA finals all four years of his college career. As a sophomore, Sebastian competed on floor, rings, vault and the all-around competition with the team, finishing in fifth place in the team championships. As a junior, Sebastian competed on floor exercise, vault and the all-around competition with the Wolverines, finishing in sixth place in the team competition.

Prior to his senior year, Sebastian was named captain with fellow senior Syque Caesar. Though he had leadership roles in previous years with fellow gymnasts looking up to him, being named captain made the team his team.

“It’s an honor to be a captain of such a talented group of guys,” Sebastian said. “This year I was really able to put everything together and really help all of the guys. I was able to lead by example and get the team in the correct frame of mind.

“Getting to train and actually getting to help some of the bigger names was really a benefit to me.”

Though he had the luxury of being around internationally celebrated talent, such as senior Sam Mikulak, sixth-year senior Syque Caesar and junior Adrian de los Angeles, Sebastian had to make some big sacrifices. He didn’t receive some of the individual honors that could have been his at nearly any other school in the nation. Sebastian didn’t compete in all of the apparatuses that he could have because of the high level competition at Michigan. Still, Sebastian has no regrets whatsoever.

“Looking back on my career I wouldn’t have changed anything,” Sebastian said. “The team aspect is what I’m all about and that’s what our team is all about. I was willing to give up some of the individual honors to get that team championship.”

In addition to the team championship his freshman year, Sebastian also got another NCAA team championship his senior year. Ranked as the No. 2 team in the country for most of the year, the Wolverines dominated postseason competition by winning Big Ten championships and the NCAA championship by wide margins. Dominating the situation was a point of emphasis for the team, as they wanted to be the clear-cut best and didn’t want the result to come down to one routine. In the winning efforts, Sebastian competed on rings and floor exercise.

“Many athletes don’t really get that great ending to their collegiate career,” Sebastian said. “I would describe it as (a) storybook ending. Just everything coming together and going into Big Ten championships and NCAA championships and being the best team there.”

In addition to the team championship, Sebastian also qualified for the NCAA individual finals on floor exercise in which he scored a 14.90, a score that earned him All-American honors.

“To end with individual honors as well, I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Sebastian said.

Now that he has concluded his collegiate career, Sebastian will turn his attention toward his future. A pre-med concentrator, Sebastian’s main focus will be towards getting into a medical school while still staying involved in gymnastics.

Sebastian, born in Ireland, has dual citizenship in both the United States and Ireland and competes internationally for Ireland. Prior to coming to Michigan, Sebastian competed for Ireland and will look to continue to participate internationally for his country of origin. The big question looming for Sebastian will be whether or not he will compete in the 2016 Olympic games.

“I’m going to continue to compete in some world competition and make my decision (on the Olympics) based on academics, my body and whether I am healthy,” Sebastian said.

As Sebastian’s time winds down at Michigan and his focus turns towards the future, Michigan gymnastics will have a hard time replacing the selfless captain, All-American and national champion.