For aspiring professional gymnasts, a chance to vie for a spot on the national team is what many spend their entire lives in preparation for. For Cal’s Tyler Shimizu, this dream became a reality this past weekend at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships.
But as is often the case with reality, unexpected obstacles emerge at the most inconvenient moments. Shimizu was not immune to these hardships, experiencing health issues and a shoulder tear just weeks before the championship competition.
The junior, who typically competes as an all-arounder, was forced to drop himself from a few of the events he had initially intended to compete in. Shimizu competed in three of the six rotations — placing 28th on floor, 29th on the pommel horse and 30th on the parallel bars. There were 47 total gymnasts battling for titles in the senior men’s competition.
In spite of the challenges Shimizu faced heading into the championships at SAP Center in San Jose, California, he feels motivated by the experience.
“(I’m) not as far as I actually thought I was, so just launching my career into a different direction (and) trying to take gymnastics a little more seriously with the aims of hopefully making the national team one day has definitely become a new goal,” Shimizu said.
And while Shimizu now looks to the future with optimism, working to hone in his skills and once again compete for a spot on the national team, he expressed that this hope had not always been unwavering.
In his final years of high school and during the beginning of his career at Cal, Shimizu was doubtful when it came to his relationship with the sport. The junior has endured multiple extended periods of injury, the last of which was a wrist injury that impacted his last season with the Bears.
“I just remember during that time when I couldn’t do anything, the only thing that came to mind was either do gymnastics or stop completely,” Shimizu said. “(Remembering) where I was not even a year ago (and seeing) the experience that I had recently, and seeing how close I was up on the leaderboard was something that I can only describe as motivating, and definitely something that I wish to take with me into the future.”
While it may not seem that Shimizu was ranked in a top position on the leaderboard at the championships, the leaderboard he refers to is the one that counts for qualification to the national team. In order to be considered for a spot on Team USA, the national committee uses a ‘points’ system to select national team members and qualifiers to other national events.
Shimizu needed two-tenths of a point in order to qualify.
Given his current injury status, Shimizu is confident that with time and continued practice, he will have another opportunity to get those two-tenths back and one day be considered for the national team.
Shimizu was the only Cal gymnast at championships this past week, but he was not the only Bay Area contender vying for a spot. Eleven Stanford gymnasts competed, two of which boasted performances that allotted the Cardinal the No. 1 and No. 2 spots of the competition.
Stanford’s Asher Hong and Khoi Young will compete for the national team, and the program’s Colt Walker, Riley Loos and Curran Phillips will serve as reserve athletes for the national team.
While Shimizu’s experience this past weekend was rife with unexpected hurdles, he did not go the course alone. His mother, a few family friends, the Cal gymnastics team and his former club coach were in the stands cheering on the blue and gold.
“To be able to show them my growth and how much I’ve improved over the last couple years was definitely an inspiring experience for me and something that I’m grateful for,” Shimizu said.