U gymnast Fang trying to live up to his potential

Michael Dougherty

In a sport like gymnastics, which relies heavily on individual performances, motivation is vital to the success of an athlete.
Gophers men’s gymnast Lindsey Fang considers it the most important part of college gymnastics.
While Fang, a sophomore from Allentown, Penn., had a good season last year, he said he didn’t perform up to his potential. He attributes his sub-par season as a freshman to a lack of motivation.
“I know last year I had a hard time getting motivated,” Fang said. “The transition with school and moving away to a different environment was hard.”
Gophers men’s gymnastics coach Fred Roethlisberger also sees the importance of keeping Fang motivated.
“I’m a little disappointed he hasn’t come along faster,” Roethlisberger said. “He gets easily discouraged, and that has been a serious problem, especially in his freshman year.”
Like any typical freshman, Fang experienced the growing pains of trying to balance study time, class time and a social life, not to mention the rigorous demands of being an athlete.
“Living in the dorms is hard, too. You can do whatever you want to do,” Fang said. “You know if you don’t feel like studying one night, you don’t have to.”
Fang knew he had to address his wandering lack of competitive drive, so he looked to senior co-captains George Beatty and Bob Hubbard to provide that.
“They really give me some inspiration,” Fang said. “George is doing his job competing-wise by showing us how to compete because he’s very steady.”
Despite the fact that Hubbard has been lost for the season due to injury, he still provides emotional leadership during the meets.
“Bob really helps us out with any problems we have on our events skill-wise,” Fang said.
With Beatty and Hubbard’s imminent departure in sight, the leadership torch needs to be passed onto someone, and Fang said he feels he can fill their shoes.
Fang credits the coaching staff with helping him to become a better prepared athlete, citing Roethlisberger and volunteer assistant coach Frank Ticknor specifically.
“Fred really knows what he’s talking about. If he sees you’re good at one particular thing he’ll help you at that and make you the best you can be,” Fang said. “Frank really operates at a personal level and he gives me some encouragement.”
Along with motivation and good coaching, a gymnastics team relies on remaining healthy, and the Gophers have been hit hard by injuries so far this season.
Besides Hubbard, junior Dan Boots and freshman Todd Guilbeau have both been lost for the season. Needless to say, Roethlisberger is dumbfounded.
“I haven’t seen anything like it in my 27 years,” he said. “I’ve never had three scholarship athletes lost in the same year.”
Fang himself has been hampered by a nagging shoulder injury that limits his performance on some events, particularly the rings. Nonetheless, Fang has proven he can be a good leader by performing through injuries.
“It’s been a chronic pain for the last year,” Fang said. “Rings really take a toll on your shoulders, and I don’t want to aggravate it any more, yet I still want to perform it.
“It holds me back a little because I don’t get to work on it as much as I’d like.”
Fang has been the only Gopher to compete in the all-around competition this season. He finished second to Illinois All-American Travis Romagnole in last Saturday’s dual meet held at the Sports Pavilion.
Despite currently being ranked ninth in the country on the vault, it is not his favorite event.
“I like the parallel bars and the pommel horse because there is more variety,” Fang said. “Vaulting is really quick, but the p-bars and the pommel horse are fun because you can show off what you can do.”
Even with his success, however, Fang still frustrates his coach sometimes. Roethlisberger recognizes Fang’s prowess, but again is concerned by his motivation — or lack thereof.
Motivation, coaching and balance are all characteristics of a successful gymnast. While Fang gets the motivation from strong senior leadership and the coaching from Roethlisberger, who is a member of the U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame, he knows that he is responsible for providing the necessary balance for his success.
That balance is two-fold. First, he relies on the physical balance that allows him to twist and turn in mid-air like a windsock in a hurricane. And secondly, he relies on his mental ability to balance his academic load with his athletic load. Good or bad, the balance often proves to be difficult.
“He is the most talented, athletically, that we have, and he has the highest potential of anybody,” Roethlisberger said. “But he needs better training habits and needs to be more aggressive.”
Roethlisberger’s squad faces seventh-ranked Michigan State tonight and then travels to Ann Arbor to face No. 10 Michigan on Saturday afternoon.
It will be the first time Fang has competed on back-to-back days, and his disdain for the rigorous team schedule might be a sign that he still hasn’t found his balance.
“There’s not too much free time. This weekend will be very hectic, so there is nothing I would like to do more than to just sit down and watch TV and relax,” Fang said.