How These Gymnasts Swing to Success at the High Bar

Reading Time: 6 minutes

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By Sophia Yuditsky

Samuel Tan

Height: 5’10”

Eye color: Brown

Hair color: Brown

Birthday: 10/09/2002

Patrick Zheng

Height: 5’10”

Eye color: Brown

Hair color: Brown

Birthday: 06/02/2002

1. When did you start doing gymnastics?

PZ: Sophomore year, I saw Muhib Khan (‘19) do it; he told me to do it freshman year but I ignored him. I didn’t get into any sports teams, so I was just like, “Why not try this?” ST: Yeah, I was actually going to do track again my sophomore year first semester, but then in math class, Patrick said, “You should pop out to the uh… (PZ: Gymnastics preseason)” and I said, “Alright bet.” It was unintentional but (PZ: it was a good decision made by both of us).

2. What are your team goals for this season?

ST: Definitely to get first place in the city. I think that every year, we have gotten really close but we have always been one or two points away. We haven’t won first in the city in at least 10-15 years, so we want to bring it home this year. PZ: Also, I think that [Marvin] Autry will be retiring soon so this is probably his last chance or one of [his] last chances to win the championship, so we really want to bring it home.

3. Are there any skills you want to improve on for yourself, and what’s your strongest event?

PZ: Floor is definitely my strongest event and my favorite, probably because I’m not very good at the other events. For floor, especially because I just love tumbling, there’s something about it that seems innately really fun. It doesn’t require me to be super strong—I just have to be coordinated. Definitely in terms of skills, getting that back full or a full routine means I get a pretty high score. ST: The thing that I love about gymnastics is that there are six events for boys, so each event is distinctly unique. No matter what you’re good at, there is always an event for you to do. Pat is flexible; he’s good at jumping, so he’s going to do floor. Personally, I’m not flexible or jumping, so I do the strength events like rings (PZ: He’s definitely a lot stronger than I am). That’s my best event. I want to improve on the rings by getting a handstand on them. It’s very scary (PZ: Nah, what’s crazy is you have to get across and bring it back) and a lot about gymnastics is very scary as well.

4. Are there any challenges the team faced this year?

PZ: Definitely. We lost our best all-around Muhib (ST: We all lost Eddie) but I actually think that our team is in better shape. We got Jordan (Kaisman, senior) back, which was really nice, and in terms of injuries, we haven’t had any fatal injuries yet. ST: Gymnastics is a dangerous sport and it’s very easy to injure yourself and be out for the rest of the season. PZ: A lot of the risky part with gymnastics is that even with an injury, you have to continue doing the same exact thing that gets you injured in the same exact spot. Calluses. Rips. Tearing up all the same spots over and over.

5. How do you deal with schoolwork and gymnastics? Any tips?

ST: Joining any sport is a big commitment and it takes a big chunk out of your day. There are some days that I really wonder if it’s worth it to be in an extracurricular because I’m going to sleep at such a late time, especially in my junior year. Now, it’s not as much of an issue because I don’t have as much work, but during that year, there were many nights where I stayed up putting in the work and [wasn’t] able to wake up in the morning. [...] The thing about doing an extracurricular is that you have those three or four hours to just relax [during gymnastics] and it prepares you to be able to do the work later that night. You’ve had your fun and it’s time to get to grinding. PZ: Ironically enough, joining a sports team not only teaches you time management, but you also actually find yourself having more time to do your work. Freshman year before I joined any sports team, I was dilly dallying in Battery Park and just playing basketball. I would get home really late, but without any activities, I had no purpose and I would just hang out with friends. I would be in no mood to do homework. But being put in an environment where there’s always an end goal, especially in all the sports teams, I realized that we have a purpose in the team. It puts your focus on homework and I actually slept earlier; I would get home at 7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. and you realize you have no time to do homework so you just have to find a way to manage everything.

6. How has the captainship changed your outlook on the game?

ST: Well before I was named a captain, I didn’t really take this sport too seriously. I would just fool around during practice and come unprepared in jeans and a hoodie. Becoming a captain has made me realize the responsibility that you need to have in order to lead a team and actually bring that team to victory. It’s a lot of pressure and (PZ: People look up to you) I realized I couldn’t be fooling around all the time because it really shows a bad image. It gets me annoyed when other people do the same thing, which is hypocritical. It’s definitely changed my view on the sport. PZ: One of the things I came to appreciate while being a captain was being able to teach the new guys. I coach outside, so it was something I was able to bring to the team, and I’ve genuinely enjoyed this for a while—everything from having the leadership and people listening to you to having that responsibility about what’s going on all the time to [knowing] what to do for meets and how to support morale. We are always the loudest team because we have really good team energy and we are really close with each other. We say stupid stuff, but they all have meaning; we all have our little inside jokes. That’s just all part of being a family.

7. Favorite or funniest memory?

ST: One of my favorite memories is leading the team in a conga line around badminton practice as we played an Indian song called Tunak Tunak Tun and paraded around the gym. Strangely, it was a bonding moment (PZ: It was really funny, and also, don’t people get married to that music?); we become closer because of our stupidity. ST: Definitely, and when we develop these inside jokes, the team gets closer and it's a part of the morale. It’s part of being an actual team. PZ: It’s like realizing there's fun in everything we do, and we can still be relaxing while we try hard. I love team dinners personally—nothing else compares. After practice during our town halls at McDonald’s, we just sit there and it’s always at the last moment. We’ll be packing up and we’ll just say town hall. ST: We all will pull up to McDonald’s and buy like nine cups and just sit there and talk about life and gymnastics.

8. Proudest memory so far?

ST: I definitely have a lot of proud memories, [such as] when you are teaching the younger kids and the kids who don’t have the skills you have. When you see them do it perfectly and see them be happy with it, that’s definitely one of my favorite moments. PZ: We have some pretty promising new guys and they have definitely made us proud. ST: Also, [I love] seeing the pictures of us huddling together or jumping up and cheering. It definitely makes me very proud.

Drink of Choice:

>ST - Baja blast

>PZ - A&W root beer

Favorite food:

>ST - Quesarito from Taco Bell

>PZ - Strawberry milkshake with fries

Motto to live by:

>ST - Taco Bell.

>PZ - If you ignore it, it will go away.

Fun fact:

>ST - I eat best watching other people eat.

>PZ - I like the smell of wood.