Most of the time, the Michigan men’s gymnastics team has
only three coaches to observe and give advice to the gymnasts. But
this year it has additional help.

Mira Levitan
Visiting Michigan assistant Daisuke Nishikawa scored a perfect 10.0 for the on the pommel horse (shown above) at the Seoul Olympics. (TONY DING/Daily)

Daisuke Nishikawa, a two-time member of Japan’s Olympic
team, has been with the squad since September and plans on staying
until just before the Big Ten Championships in the middle of
March.

The coaches and gymnasts think that he brings something
different to the gym that makes them better as a team.

“He is the silent coach who stands over in the corner and
analyzes,” Michigan coach Kurt Golder said. “And
without knowing that he is watching, he will call a guy over and
give him a little ancient Japanese secret. And of course he is an
Olympic level athlete so, because of his presence, he brings the
dimension of the guys wanting to perform for him and show him their
best. I am sure that it helps us a bit.”

Nishikawa comes to Michigan with an impressive resumé.
When he was 18 years old, he competed for Japan in the Seoul
Olympics. While there, he got a perfect 10.0 on the pommel horse,
something that only a handful of gymnasts have done in the history
of the Olympics.

“He’s awesome,” junior Geoff Corrigan said.
“Just being in the gym with a guy like that is something that
most people will never get to do. So, just from that perspective,
it’s amazing to have him in the gym.”

Nishikawa has been working as a gymnastics coach and lecturer at
his alma mater, Nihon University in Tokyo, since 1999. He explained
that gymnastics is the same wherever he is, but some aspects of
coaching are different.

“My team had 35 gymnasts, which is too big,”
Nishikawa said. “The gym was very small, the same size as
this. There were only two coaches for all those gymnasts. It was
very difficult. At Michigan, there are three coaches and 16
gymnasts. And the gymnasts and the coaches talk, which is very
good.

“Competition is the same, but just a little different.
Some guys from Michigan do all six events, but some guys do three
events or two events and that’s okay — specialists are
okay. But in Japan there are no specialists. All gymnasts do six
events. It’s different because doing all six events is very
difficult. If you are good on five events, but on one event you are
no good, then you aren’t a good gymnast.”

He said that the hardest part is communicating with the
gymnasts, but the coaches and gymnasts think that he doesn’t
give himself enough credit.

“Especially with the sport of gymnastics, so much of the
coaching is done by how you shape you body or (use) hand gestures
to show different techniques,” Golder says. “And that
is something that is universal. That is why gymnasts can
communicate, coach-to-athlete, so easily.”

Corrigan said that he has no problem understanding what his
Japanese coach is trying to explain when there are problems with
his routine.

“It’s not a problem because he can show positions
and everything,” Corrigan says. “It is if you are
trying to get in depth on something, but most of the time he just
shows technique. And he speaks pretty good English. He is just
scared to talk. When he wants to, he can say anything.”

Nishikawa’s first large competition was at the Olympics.
Before that, he had only trained in high school and Japan has no
national competition like there is in the United States. The
plethora of large college competitions, like last weekend’s
Winter Cup in Las Vegas, is one thing that Nishikawa had to get
used to.

He said that he has some trouble dealing with the Michigan
weather.

“I have been having fun,” Nishikawa said. “I
like it. I like Michigan. The gymnastics is very good and the
coaching is very good. The cold is unbelievable. But inside
it’s warm. In the gym, it’s very warm.”

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