On Nov. 11, Cal Athletics announced that two athletes, Tyler Shimizu and Jasper Smith-Gordon, will join the Cal men’s gymnastics team in the 2021-22 season.
The pandemic forced coaches to adopt a new process of recruiting, in which important steps such as watching athletes practice in person are absent. However, after being implemented earlier this year, this process may become the new normal.
“We were still looking to get some team members when we went into lockdown,” said head coach J.T. Okada. “We couldn’t go out and see them practice, compete or train. … So we have (a) little bit of experience with it already.”
Adding a local talent like Shimizu, whom the coach had already witnessed perform, may have helped the decision. A gymnast from the Bay Area, Shimizu has competed in national events such as the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships.
“It’s always nice to have people from California,” Okada said. “Tyler is a good all-around gymnast, and I cannot wait to see which event he will excel on.”
The Bears are also adding international talent next year. Smith-Gordon was born in Singapore and represented the U.K. at the 2019 FIG Artistic Gymnastics Junior World Championships, where he earned bronze on vault. Having already competed in standout events and experienced international success, Smith-Gordon is expected to further grow in a new environment in the United States, according to Okada.
“He’s already had some international experiences,” Okada said. “That’s really going to motivate him to go into the next level of senior international competitions, such as world championships or even beyond that.”
Athletes who sign a national letter of intent commit to UC Berkeley and can receive financial aid, with the amount ranging from partial to full scholarships. Later in the year, the team may see the addition of walk-ons, or recruits without financial scholarships.
Eriko Yamakuma covers men’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected].