After starting the men’s gymnastics season with solid performances at the Windy City Invitational and a dual meet against Iowa two weeks ago, freshman Daniel Rais’s season took an unfortunate twist when he missed a landing on the vault. Instead of taking Oklahoma and the Winter Cup by storm, Rais has spent the better part of the last two weeks in the training room, icing a severe high ankle sprain.
Rais has always been confident in his abilities on the vault — an event that he considered his best before coming to Michigan. His fall came during a practice after the Iowa meet. “I landed wrong on vault, totally wrong, and just rolled it,” Rais said. “My Achilles is pretty tender, and the upper part of my ankle is pretty sore. It’s an upper sprain, so it takes longer to heal. It’s the worst type of sprain. It’s still hurting pretty good.”
While he won’t be competing in this weekend’s Winter Cup in Las Vegas, Rais is hoping to be back in action at Minnesota on February 12.
“There are days where it feels really good and days where it feels really bad,” Rais said. “I’m just hoping it begins to progress. It doesn’t heal as fast as I had hoped.”
In the meantime, Rais is hoping to continue improving in the floor exercise — which he won during the meet against Iowa. Since coming to Michigan, Rais believes that he has dramatically improved in the floor exercise.
“My favorite event is the floor,” Rais said. “This year, it has gotten better, so I think it is my best event now. Vault was my best event for the past two years.”
Rais began his career as a gymnast at an early age, when his parents started taking him to lessons. Though he played baseball and basketball, gymnastics was always his focus.
“My parents put me in when I was four because I was active and liked to climb on things,” Rais said. “I was at one gym in the beginning where I wasn’t getting coached. I went to a different gym, and that’s where I got better, and it was definitely the right decision for me to keep going because I’m here at Michigan.”
Arriving at Michigan was a dream come true for Rais, who had wanted to come here for many years. When he was six years old, he began participating in a youth meet that took place before a Michigan varsity meet. Having a chance to watch the Wolverines in action left Rais dreaming of one day wearing the Michigan uniform.
Now that he has reached Michigan, Rais has his eyes set on making it into the national spotlight. Rais hopes to achieve All-America status on either the floor or vault this year and hopes to expand his repertoire in the coming seasons.
“I was hoping this year to try and get (All-America),” Rais said. “It’s really hard, and I have to work really hard to get it. For the next few years, I want to compete in more events, maybe the all-around.”
Even his injuries haven’t dampened Rais’s hopes of a high finish at the national championships.
“It hasn’t really affected my goals yet because I don’t know how long I am going to be out,” Rais said. “I’m hoping to be back next week for the next meet. It all depends how I feel next week.”