Pandemic delays Wiskus’ Olympic dreams until 2021

After preparing for Tokyo for years, Wiskus will use the extra time to improve weaknesses.

Gophers Junior Shane Wiskus prepares to perform a floor routine at Maturi Pavilion on Friday, Feb. 7. The Gophers went on to a 398-375.55 victory over the Washington Huskies.

Parker Johnson

Gophers Junior Shane Wiskus prepares to perform a floor routine at Maturi Pavilion on Friday, Feb. 7. The Gophers went on to a 398-375.55 victory over the Washington Huskies.

AJ Condon

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Olympic Committee announced that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would be postponed to no later than summer 2021. This decision delays the hopes junior Shane Wiskus has had for years.

Wiskus was in the midst of an outstanding third year. He posted career highs on rings, parallel bars and all-around — he held the top position in the nation for the latter two. On top of that, he earned three regular season All-American awards.

On his road to qualifying for the 2020 Olympics, he shined in his two events. He finished second at the Winter Cup in Las Vegas and later finished fourth at the American Cup.

“None of the things I accomplished in the last year are going away. I still have those accomplishments, I still have the experience I gained from this year,” Wiskus said.

Wiskus has been improving since he came to Minnesota as a freshman, but he had the hopes of being an Olympian before that. The news of the postponement pushed that goal even further away. 

“When it first came out, I was obviously devastated. I’ve been telling a couple people this: ‘It’s like you have a really good hand in poker, but because of a dealer error, you have to get handed a new hand,’” Wiskus said. “You have to restart this whole thing after you had everything laid out so well.”

It isn’t an ideal situation for Wiskus, but gymnasts around the world are in the same position he is in.

“After, I got a couple days, about a week, to settle in with the idea of it and kind of come to terms with what was going on and realize there are so many people in the same position I am,” Wiskus said. “You just trust that everyone is going through the same thing, and you can still come back next year and be even better than you were.”

Head coach Mike Burns knows it’s a tough time for his junior gymnast but realizes he could be in a better spot than other gymnasts.

“This delay could actually be a positive for him. Shane is still in his prime and now has more time to work on some other aspects,” Burns said. “Other gymnasts might be on their decline already, and Shane can use this to his advantage.” 

Wiskus also looked at the bright side of the situation as extra time to improve areas of weakness.

“I’ll be looking at events — like pommel is considered one of my weak events — and now I have an entire year to up my game on that event and potentially make myself even better,” Wiskus said. “It was something I had to come to terms with, but I think I’m in a good headspace now. I’m realizing this could actually be a good thing for me.”