Life isn’t the same for separated U gymnasts

Michael Dougherty

It’s like Stockton without Malone or Norm without Cliff. It’s like the Captain without Tenille, but it isn’t Muskrat Love.
In the case of Gophers men’s gymnastics, it’s George Beatty without Bob Hubbard.
Hubbard and Beatty came to Minnesota as freshmen in 1995 and immediately found success, as they were part of a Big Ten championship squad.
Finding success so soon often leads to disappointment laterm — just ask one-hit wonders Milli Vanilli.
But unlike the Grammy-winning lip-synchers, Beatty and Hubbard were able to get past their immediate success and go on to achieve more.
The two were part of coach Fred Roethlisberger’s teams that finished fourth in the Big Ten the last two seasons, and Roethlisberger had high hopes that the two co-captains would lead his team to another Big Ten title this season — so much so that the two grace the front and back covers of the Gophers media guide, respectively.
But Beatty and Hubbard were separated in December when Hubbard learned he would be unable to compete this year because of a wrist injury.
Hubbard’s injury is the result of years of pressure put on it by the rigorous demands of gymnastics, yet it was an incident during practice last season that did the most damage.
“He was doing a trick on the high bar and the bar broke,” Beatty said. “He came off the bar and he landed up against a garbage can and his heel smashed into the wooden floor. He tried to hold on to the broken part of the bar, and that caused a bone to chip in his wrist.”
Despite the injuries, Hubbard continued to compete through the pain, which is a testament to his devotion.
“That just shows how tough he is because he kept on competing through that,” Beatty said.
However, the continued stress on his wrist forced off-season surgery for Hubbard. It was thought that the surgery would allow him to compete this season, but that just was not the case.
“He had the surgery and the doctor would tell him, Give it a couple months.’ He would go back and they would say, A couple more,'” Beatty said.
But the chance never came and the wrist never got better. In fact, the only thing that did come was bad news, as Hubbard just received a letter from his doctor that ultimately will end his gymnastics career.
“I haven’t talked to Fred about it yet, but it’s as close to official as it’s going to be,” Hubbard said of his minute chances of returning next season on a medical redshirt.
“The doctors fear that any further involvement in gymnastics is going to cause more permanent damage, and permanent damage is the one key phrase I’ve been trying to avoid.”
While Beatty and Hubbard had thought it would probably end up this way, the two are disappointed.
“It has really bummed me out,” Beatty said. “But he could do long-term damage to his wrist, and it’s a shame because he’s a really good gymnast.”
Although Hubbard has been unable to compete this year, he still provides leadership by attending practices, which helps Roethlisberger’s young squad.
“During team meetings, he’s right there helping out, and he’s just as vocal as I am, if not more,” Beatty said.
“A lot of these guys (the freshmen) didn’t know what Bob could do because they didn’t really see him work out, and he jumps up one day and starts doing some p-bar (parallel bar) stuff and one guy turned to me and said, Bob’s awesome,'” Beatty said.
Yet, even though Hubbard was still able to provide support during practices and meetings, the leadership load during meets fell solely on Beatty’s well-defined shoulders.
“It was really frustrating. It really took a lot out of me, and I felt like I had to raise these guys to a new level,” Beatty said. “It’s really difficult to focus and motivate yourself, when you feel like you have to focus and motivate everyone else.”
As Beatty struggled with the leadership role early, Hubbard struggled with watching his best friend compete while he couldn’t.
“Even if I could have come back next year, it would never be the same as going out with George and I as captains,” Hubbard said. “I’ve been with him since the first day of our freshman year.”
One would think that after going through college with the same roommate for four years, one of the two would play Oscar to the other’s Felix. However, Hubbard said it’s quite the opposite.
“We get along very well,” he said. “There is very little friction.”
Very little is the key phrase, because they do differ on one subject — Beatty loves the band Sublime, and Hubbard flatly stated, “I hate Sublime.”
Despite their difference in musical tastes, the competitive parallels run deep.
Beatty, himself, has experienced injuries which hamper his performance. He tore his rotator cuff last year while performing on the still rings, and he was recently diagnosed with a stress fracture in his foot that causes a lot of pain.
But like Hubbard did last year, Beatty competes through the pain and is currently ranked ninth in the nation on the pommel horse, right behind teammate Jason Krob.
Beatty said he thinks that, although the team probably won’t make it to NCAA regionals, he will be able to make it on an individual basis. When asked what his goals for these last few weeks of his collegiate career were, he had this to say:
“I want to be an All-American on p-bars and pommel horse, and I think I can do that,” he said.
While Beatty is setting goals for the end of his gymnastics career, Hubbard is faced with the realization that he will never compete again. But he is surprisingly relieved.
“On one hand, I would kill to have one good year, but on the other hand it’s hard for me to think I could make it through another season,” Hubbard said. “Part of me is ready for the pain to go away.”