Everyone’s past 18 months have been crazy, but for gymnast Shane Wiskus, the past year has been a complete roller coaster that still ended up with him making the U.S. Olympic team.
“I've just been through the ringer," he said. "And I kind of told myself that I've been through enough and I'm ready to kind of show what I can do at the (Olympic Trials)."
The pandemic hit just as Wiskus was midway through his junior year at Minnesota, cutting short a promising season. In October, he received worse news. Minnesota cut its men’s gymnastics program. His senior season would be the school’s last year sponsoring gymnastics.
Still, he finished his NCAA season as one of the country’s best gymnasts. Wiskus won an NCAA championship on the rings and parallel bars, and he took second in all-around, high bar and the floor exercise.
But that high would be paired with another low, as the Minnesota-born Wiskus had to say goodbye to his school and home state. Not only would the legacy he spent building the last four years at Minnesota would be gone, but he also would need to move immediately at the end of the college season to continue to train for the Olympic Trials.
Athletes crave stability and routine as they approach the biggest moments of their lives. Instead, Wiskus had to pack up and move to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., just months before the national championships in June.
At those national championships, he was having a strong competition until the second day of high bar, when he fell three times.
Despite the falls, Wiskus scored well enough to make it to the Olympic Trials. There, he made the comeback big enough to earn a spot on the Olympic team. Wiskus finished third in the all-around and was announced as a part of the team for the Tokyo Games.
When he heard he was on the team, he dropped to the floor, then quickly stood up to hug his coach.
“The whole weekend has just been a mental battle, trying to come back from national championships where I fell three times on high bar. Just mentally working and putting the puzzle back together in my head for the last couple weeks," Wiskus said after the competition. "And then obviously leading up to the competition, the only thing on my mind was to calm things down, treat things like practice and just take it one step at a time.
"And yesterday, I just kind of bottled everything up. I tried to not overexcite myself because I knew second place was a good spot to be in after day one. And I just tried to bottle it up and hang on through this day. And obviously, it worked. So I'm just really happy. And I think the mental battle was definitely won.”
Wiskus has one more battle to try and finish out his tumultuous year and a half on a high. The men’s qualifying in the Olympics starts on July 24.