How much do you really know about men’s gymnastics? Did
you have any idea that it is comprised of six events? Or that some
gymnasts specialize in one or two events, while others compete in
the all-around competition? Did you know that Michigan has a
national champion and three Junior National Champions on its
The men’s gymnastics team is a group of the strongest and
most charismatic athletes on campus, but nobody knows what they do.
The Michigan Daily sat down with the best Michigan gymnasts for
each of the six events.
They explained in detail the intricacies and the most difficult
aspects of their events.
Read on to find out why these six men are the best at what they
• Pommel Horse •
by Justin Laury
Everyone knows it’s one of the toughest events out there
because it requires a lot of balance. When you get nervous,
it’s really hard. A lot of guys fall under the pressure. One
thing I think about, the first thing I think about, is that I can
either go out there and be a predator, or I can be the prey. So I
go out there and I attack the event. I always tell myself that
there is no way I am going to come off this event. I tell myself
I’m going to fight to the end.
When I salute, I go to the horse, take a deep breath, get
focused and think about being calm and relaxed. And when I start my
routine, I try to make sure that I’m extended, stretched and
I keep good form. All the way through, all I think about is
squeezing my legs tight and keeping good form. It’s
especially tough if you have a lot of pressure on you. One thing I
think about is just being calm and relaxed and also being
aggressive at the same time. When I get to the scissors, I feel
like I’m home free. I am ready to go, my adrenaline is going,
and I am close to being done with the routine. I just think about
not taking any break and being tight and finishing my routine. And
when I land, the job’s done.
Fortunately, I haven’t had too many problems with
injuries. I had a wrist surgery, so that hurts every once in a
while. But when I get going, the adrenaline takes care of all that.
It’s like my pain killer. It’s really hard on the
wrists and the elbows and arms. I don’t think it’s one
of the hardest events training-wise, but it’s hard when it
comes down to the whole team sitting there and counting on you in
the NCAA finals. When it comes down to a situation like that,
there’s not one event that’s tougher to do. When your
nerves get going, you throw your weight over too much on one side,
right off the horse, and there goes your championship. There are 18
other guys on your team and they are all counting on you. So
it’s more mental.
• Still Rings •
by Eddie Umphrey
I don’t have any superstitions or anything. I say a prayer
to myself before I go on any event, but I don’t feel any
nerves or anything. It’s more like a playtime for me to show
off. It’s my time to show everyone how strong I am — I
can get the ladies to turn their heads a little bit, go up there,
and show everyone that I’m the strongest guy in the gym. When
I salute, it’s just 110 percent confidence that this is going
to be the best routine in the gym and nobody can beat me on this
My first skill is called an Azarian roll to a cross. I just
think about pulling hard and locking into my lats (back muscles).
Then I get into an L-cross position and hold it, and I pull up to a
skill called a Maltese. For that, I think about pulling out as fast
as I can because you don’t see too many people pull out fast,
and the faster you pull out the easier it looks. The judges really
like that. I do another Azarian to a cross and I think about
getting my arms straight and holding a little bit longer than the
other skills. I give a little head nod to the crowd to show off a
little bit. I dismount with a double layout and I just think about
swinging as hard as I can and trying to stick it.
It always hurts, always — especially the cross. The cross
is the most painful skill, and every time I do it I feel like my
shoulders are going to come out. It’s just a painful skill. I
think the pain starts before you get up there because you just know
that the whole routine is going to hurt. You know that all the
strength, like the cross, is going to kill you.
The Maltese is going to hurt, and you have to swing and come
through the bottom. I am a lot heavier than the other guys —
I’m like 180. It’s definitely harder for me to pull
myself up. So when I come to the bottom it’s pretty painful.
But it’s all worth it once you get down and get that stick.
The crowd goes crazy, and that’s the biggest reward. I love
the audience. I love to get the audience’s response.
• Parallel Bars •
by Geoff Corrigan
Before I go, I try to go over the routine once in my head with
my eyes closed and I think about every position and everything that
I will be doing. The first thing that I think about is being
aggressive, and the first worry that’s on my mind is the grip
on the bars. So I make sure before I go that I can grip it real
well. I put honey on my hands, and I put honey on the bars, then I
put chalk on my hands, and then chalk on the bars — then a
little bit more honey, a little bit more chalk, and I feel the
grip. I just try to get all the doubt that’s in my head
The hardest skill of the whole routine, a Peach Half, is early.
I have to worry about every little thing like my feet separating,
my arms bending, my lower back being loose, my legs bending,
anything like that. The next skill is a stutz. I think about
swinging hard, trying to push through on my right arm, and trying
to hit a good handstand. I don’t want to take it too far
outside because then I have to do a skill that I am not very good
at. The rest of the routine is pretty basic skills.
At the end of the routine my triceps burn pretty bad. It’s
mostly just my arms, shoulders and triceps. And if I am squeezing
really hard then my upper body is tired, too. At the end, I think
about trying to swing hard, but I want to be sure to keep my right
arm real straight. If it bends, I can come off of the bar early.
There was a guy who broke his neck in front of us at a Winter Cup.
He bent his arm, flipped too fast, landed on his neck, and broke
his neck. So I just try to think about keeping my arm straight and
pushing up. On the dismount I think about bringing my head around
fast and seeing the ground early. I want to make sure that I stick
it because it can be a two-tenths swing. One year we lost the
championship here by 0.05, so a stick on P-bars can be the
• Floor Exercise •
by Luke Bottke
The whole thing for me is to make sure I take everything one
skill at a time. Before I go, I just try and clear my mind and go
over some last minute corrections. It helps me to think of one or
two words rather than a whole bunch of thoughts at once. So
I’ll think of “feet through” coming out of my
round-off, or just to “punch hard,” “be
aggressive,” “stay tight” — stuff like
Usually I can feel right away if I’m going to be on or
off, or how hard it’s going to be for me. I salute to the
judge and think to do it like I did it in practice. My first two
passes are my hardest, so that’s the majority of my routine.
The second half is kind of a relief once I get through that. I
really concentrate on staying tight, my timing, looking for things
visually in the air and sticking my landings. In the air, I
concentrate on the floor and try to keep my head neutral. If my
head is out, I can get lost in the air, and that’s bad
On floor, the big thing is five-tenth combinations because we
need to get the bonus in our routines in order to start from a high
start value. The higher we start from, the higher we score. The
hard thing about that is that we aren’t allowed to repeat any
skills. So in order to have two sequences of three skills, you have
to have more skills. I start at a 9.8, but a 10.0 has been in the
works since the beginning of the season. We’ve been striving
for consistency. The big thing is that I have wrist problems.
I’ve had three wrist surgeries. And my legs get sore, but
they haven’t really given me any major problems.
• High Bar •
by Andre Hernandez
I’m kind of superstitious, so before I go I always have my
Nike wristbands facing down. I always make sure that I don’t
have too much chalk, but just the right amount. I like it on my
hands, but not on my grips because sometimes I slip when there is
too much on the grips. Before every high bar routine I think about
legs because one problem that I have is keeping my legs
Usually I have good extension, but I sometimes break form, so
that’s what I focus on. I always worry about the two
sequences in my routine because they are the hardest ones. My first
sequence is a five-tenths sequence. Then after that I swing into
the middle to get space to do my second sequence. I worry about
getting my hand back on in time so I don’t fall off the bar.
And I worry about staying tight because staying in control helps me
stay on the bar.
Usually after the two sequences, I take a breather and just
focus on staying clean for the rest of the routine. I’m
pretty tired by then. My hands are always hurting and sometimes
they get really hot. And my shoulders get tired. So when I am doing
all the twisting, my shoulders will give out. I’ve never
really had that many crashes. That’s what hurts: crashing.
Then I do a Pirouette and then a Gienger, which is my release.
It’s a pretty easy release, and I don’t worry about it
That’s when I am usually really tired, and I have to push
hard for the dismount, which is a double layout, full twist. The
dismount is really hard for me because I don’t twist that
well. But I try to stay open, keep my legs together, and stay down
for the dismount.
• The Vault •
by Drew Digiore
Before I go on, I try to visualize the vault in my head. I start
at the same spot every time, 68 feet from where I hit the board.
The front of the board has to be set two feet away from the vault.
The first two steps I run are really slow. It sort of calms me
down. But I put everything I have into the run because it’s
like a sprint. I hurdle, and when I hit the board I try to get my
feet in front of me and stay tight using my stomach muscles. Coming
off the vault, I try to drive my heels down and my chest up to get
ready for the twist. When I’m up, I spot for the ground, and
then I pull my twist down and drive my heels to the ground.
The run is the most important part. Some people count their
steps when they’re going, but I try to concentrate on other
things like the vault and the board. Even if you are good on the
board, you have to be good on the vault. If you’re not as
good on the board, you can fix it, alter it, or change your body
position to make it a good vault. After I get off the vault and
start twisting, I can tell how I’m going to land. Sometimes
though, I think I’m going to do well so I don’t try as
hard and it doesn’t end up well.
I try and picture my 2003 NCAA Championship vault. Since
I’ve done it so many times, it’s ingrained in my head.
The biggest thing is that I have to get all of the negative
thoughts out. It’s a lot mental, especially coming back from
my ankle injury (which held me out the start of this season). I
know how to do it, and I know I can do it well, but I am still
tentative. And if I’m tentative it’s hard.