For junior Sam Mikulak, becoming the 10th Michigan men’s gymnast ever to participate in the Olympics just wasn’t enough to solidify his name in the history books.
As of Sept. 14, Mikulak’s name is permanently in the books, just as planned.
The International Gymnastics Federation released its Code of Points two weeks ago, with the “Mikulak” as one of three pommel horse skills named after gymnasts.
The “Mikulak” is a double-scissor travel with a sideways hop from one end of the horse to the other, and is a ‘D’ skill on the scale from A to F, with F being the most difficult. It is one of the most difficult scissor skills on the pommel horse, as no other scissor skills have a rating higher than D.
“When I first invented the skill, which was a year ago, it was more of just a battle to make sure no one saw it and tried competing it on a world stage,” Mikulak said. “I survived that, and when I went to the Olympics, we registered for a submission of a new skill.”
Mikulak knew that he’d be competing the skill on the pommel horse for Team USA during the men’s qualification round at the 2012 London Olympics, so he had to complete the skills with no flaws.
“I went out, competed it, and I didn’t fall on it, which was good, because if I had, it wouldn’t be my skill,” he said. “I was told once I competed it, it was pretty much officially my skill. Once it finally was announced that it was going to be named after me, it was more of a relief (and) excitement that my name is going to be remembered in the history books of gymnastics.”
But that wasn’t the first time Mikulak tried to have a skill named after him. He previously tried to get a parallel bars skill named after him a year ago. Mikulak began working on the skill — a front one-and-a-quarter to a long hang — in collegiate and international events, but there was another gymnast, Sergio Sasaki from Brazil, who saw it performed and started working on it, as well, something Mikulak said was “just a coincidence.”
At an international meet in Puerto Rico, Mikulak and Sasaki both performed the event on parallel bars. But in order for the skill to become a namesake, it must be performed at a world event and FIG did not recognize that competition as a world event.
The next chance Mikulak would have to perform the skill was at the 2011 World Gymnastics Championship in Tokyo, but he suffered an ankle injury and wasn’t able to compete. Now, the parallel bars skill has been dubbed the “Sasaki.”
But that setback didn’t upset Mikulak at all, he said.
Last November, Mikulak began developing his new skill on the pommel horse. He said he knew that he was improving at pommel horse — an event he would have to compete well on to make the Olympic team — so he took a simpler skill and “amped it up,” adding an additional move to make it his own.
“I figured it out on my first day,” Mikulak said. “I figured the value would increase since it’s actually a lot more difficult than the original skill.”
A month before the Olympics, Mikulak’s coaches submitted the petition to have the skill added to the Code of Points. His coach, Kurt Golder, received the confirmation call last week and now Mikulak’s name will be in the books permanently.
“After overcoming (the parallel bars) battle, it’s nice I could get my name in the books for real this time,” Mikulak said.