Gophers gymnast to represent Canada in the Pan-Am Games

Justin Karstadt finished his Gopher career as a four-time All-American.

Freshman Justin Karstadt concentrates during his performance on the pommel horse at the Sports Pavilion on Saturday.

Sam Harper, Daily File Photo

Freshman Justin Karstadt concentrates during his performance on the pommel horse at the Sports Pavilion on Saturday.

Nolan O'Hara

While Justin Karstadt’s Gophers gymnastics career ended in May, his days in the gym will continue. This time he will be competing for his country. 

Karstadt will represent Team Canada in the Pan-American Games, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced on June 17. The games take place in Lima, Peru on July 27-31.

“To me it’s everything, it’s everything you could ever want to achieve as an athlete,” Karstadt said about representing his home country.

Karstadt previously represented Team Canada at the University of Calgary International Cup after he replaced an injured teammate. He proved worthy of the spot, as he placed third all-around. Karstadt also recently placed third all-around at the Canadian National Championships. 

“For me, the multi-sport games are the most exciting, especially representing your country where you can meet your fellow countrymen in other sports,” he said. “I first experienced it in Taiwan at the World University Games in 2017, and then ever since I was looking at the next one up and that was these Pan-Am Games. I’m thrilled to have achieved that and get another go at another multi-sport games.” 

Karstadt had to work hard to get there. A shoulder injury kept him on the sidelines for a portion of both his sophomore and junior seasons. His hard work in recovering from that injury paid off with a strong senior season. He was a finalist for the Nissen-Emery award as a senior, which recognizes the top senior gymnast in the country, and finished as a four-time All-American. He also placed sixth on the pommel horse at the 2019 NCAA Championships. 

Karstadt will compete in at least four events in the Pan-Am Games, but he could see action in five or six. The Pan-Am Games is the last team competition before the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany this October. Karstadt will look to make Team Canada once again for that event, as they hope to qualify to send a full team to the 2020 Olympics. 

“We have to come top 12 there to give us an Olympic berth. If we don’t come top 12, we won’t be able to send a full team,” he said. “So, it’s really crunch time for us, and the Pan-Am Games is an exciting rehearsal for that.” 

Mike Burns, the Gophers men’s gymnastics coach, said Karstadt could be a valuable asset in making that happen if he were to make the world team.

“At the last world’s last fall, they ended up 18th as a team. If they had that performance this fall in Stuttgart, that would not be good,” Burns said. “They had a team that struggled on the pommel horse, they really kind of failed on the pommel horse, and one of the things Justin’s really strong on is pommel horse.”

Burns also said he’s been in contact with Karstadt regularly who has been keeping him updated on his progress as he prepares for the Pan-Am Games. Karstadt spoke fondly of his time at Minnesota and is still thinking about it even in his preparation. 

“I definitely miss it. I’ve been back home a couple weeks now and on my wall in my room I have all of our team posters and a bunch of memorabilia from that time,” he said. “It’s definitely been memorable, and I thoroughly enjoyed competing for the U. I definitely made the right decision by coming to Minnesota.”