From a cut program to the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, Gophers gymnast Shane Wiskus is a first-time Olympian

Wiskus finished in third place in the all-around with a score of 168.150, a total high enough to be one of the two gymnasts chosen by the selection committee to earn a spot on the US artistic gymnastics team.

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Shane Wiskus competes on Day Two of the men’s U.S. Olympic Artistic Gymnastics Team Trials on Saturday, June 26, 2021, at The Dome in St. Louis, Mo. Photo courtesy of John Cheng.

Michael Lyne

Gophers alum and recent 2021 graduate Shane Wiskus is heading to his first Olympic games. He will represent Team USA as an artistic gymnastics team member not even a full year after the University of Minnesota decided to cut the men’s gymnastics program starting next fall.

Over two days of competition and 12 apparatuses in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in St. Louis, Missouri, Wiskus totaled 168.150 points to finish in third place in the all-around competition.

“He’s got something going for him,” said Tim Daggett, a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic gymnastics gold medal team, during the Day One live broadcast. “He does not lack confidence. He never has. He shouldn’t because he has tremendous abilities, but there are guys in the biggest moments of their lives … they doubt themselves a little bit, and that is not Shane Wiskus. That’s not in his genes.”

Gophers men’s gymnastics head coach Mike Burns spoke to Wiskus last week before the trials began and told him it’s all about “what is.”

“I just told Shane this last week. I said just remember one thing: It’s all about ‘what is’ and not about ‘what if’ … That’s where the lack of focus comes from because you start to get ahead of yourself. You start to put the cart before the horse. So you just got to keep that horse moving one step at a time and realize it’s a process, and you got to kind of live in the moment of the process.”

At the 2021 U.S. Gymnastics Championships earlier this month, Wiskus fell three times on the high bar. These falls caused him to fall from second to finish in ninth in the final round of the competition.

After the Olympic trials concluded, Burns spoke of Wiskus’ confidence leading up to the Olympic trials and was relieved that he did not suffer from any significant mistakes during the competition.

“Confidence is like a bank account. You got to keep putting deposits in, and every so often, you have a couple of withdrawals, and he had a few withdrawals at the NCAA’s on Day Two on vault and then on Day Two on high bar at the U.S. Nationals,” Burns said. “He was able in a short amount of time between the USA’s and trials to get the balance sheet in order and really get it back to where it needed to be. It was really great to see, and it’s just a testament to his determination, attitude and maturity.”

Wiskus earned his spot on the team alongside two-time Olympian and U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center partner Sam Mikulak, who finished in fourth place with a total score of 166.750. The selection committee chose the two gymnasts to complete Team USA’s four-person roster.

“It seems like they’ve [Wiskus and Mikulak] really built up a good respect for each other and a friendship,” Burns said. “How cool is it that his new teammate at the training center is now a teammate on the Olympic team with him. I think that’s awesome.”

The other two gymnasts that will join Wiskus and Mikulak in Tokyo are Brody Malone and Yul Moldauer after they automatically qualified for the summer games in the trials. In addition, Alec Yoder will also compete for Team USA after individually qualifying on the pommel horse.

Malone, the all-around champion of the 2021 U.S. Championships and NCAA Championships, automatically qualified after winning the Olympic trials with a total score of 171.600.

Moldauer, the parallel bars champion of the 2021 U.S. Championships, punched his ticket to Tokyo after finishing in second place with a total score of 168.600 and placing in the top three across at least three apparatuses.

The following gymnasts will serve as alternates for Team USA: Cameron Bock, Allan Bower, Brandon Briones, Alex Diab and Akash Modi.

Wiskus shines on Day One – Thursday, June 24

On Day One’s competition, Wiskus totaled a whopping 84.300 points in the all-around to finish in second place, trailing Brody Malone by just 0.950.

The Spring Park, Minnesota, native started his Olympic trials debut on the vault, earning his best score of 14.600 points on Day One with an execution score of 9.400.

“At Forth Worth [during the U.S. Championships], he had some troubles on the vault,” Burns said. “So, he started on vault on Day One. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was holding my breath. And then he knocks out one of his best vaults he’s done all year, so it was really, really great to see that start.”

Wiskus’ second-best score of his Olympic debut came on his second apparatus of the day, the parallel bars, where he scored 14.500 points. He graciously flew back and forth on the bars and nearly stuck a perfect dismount to finish off a routine that scored higher than any other gymnasts’ in the apparatus.

All eyes were on Wiskus as he approached the high bar for his third apparatus. If he were to have another fall on the high bar during the trials, it would prove costly to his chances of making the Olympic team.

According to Daggett, during the Day One live broadcast, Wiskus removed the first major release that caused him to fall previously during the U.S. Championships. He noted that “[Shane] made a very smart decision” to take out his first major release during the broadcast.

Wiskus had a lower maximum score because of this decision, but the Gophers alum showed out on the high bar to score 13.800 points. Then, after perfectly sticking his landing, he turned to the crowd and shouted out an emphatic, “C’mon. Let’s go.”

 

“It was so good to see how he [Wiskus] managed the adversity of that last [high bar] routine at U.S. Nationals in Fort Worth and came back from that because something like that can stay in your mind and mess with you,” Burns said.

To round out his apparatuses on Day One, Wiskus totaled 14.000 on the floor, 13.900 on the still rings and 13.500 on the pommel horse.

Wiskus becomes a first-time Olympian – Saturday, June 26

On Saturday, Wiskus punched his ticket to the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer after scoring 83.850 points on Day Two to finish in third place in the all-around with a total of 168.150. This total was enough for the selection committee to choose him to represent Team USA.

Wiskus’ first apparatus was the still rings. He scored 14.050 points after perfectly sticking his landing, bettering his Day One score by 0.150. However, he slipped down into third place behind Moldauer by 0.100.

Following up his start on the rings, Wiskus moved to the vault, an apparatus that generally sees high scores, for the second rotation. Then, he sprinted, flew into the air, spinning, twisting and landing with a slight gather step to complete his routine and earn 14.500 points.

Wiskus’ high-scoring apparatus in the vault sprung him back into second place, just 0.150 points ahead of Moldauer, giving him a chance toward automatic qualification.

Wiskus moved to the parallel bars, his second highest-scoring apparatus on Day One, looking to stay in second place. He followed his first routine up with another magnificent performance where he scored 14.350 points to grow his second-place lead over Moldauer by 0.350. The parallel bars on Day Two would also be his second-highest scoring apparatus.

After regaining the second-place position for two rotations, Wiskus fell back into third place behind Moldauer after his high bar apparatus, where he scored 13.600 points. But, just like on Day One, Wiskus was animated after completing his high bar routine with no falls, including a stuck landing.

The Gophers alum could not overtake Moldauer for the second-place position as they closed out their last two apparatuses. To round out his Olympic Trials debut, Wiskus scored 14.200 on the floor and 13.150 on the pommel horse.

What’s up next

The 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games will take place from Friday, July 23, to Sunday, Aug. 8, as the artistic gymnastics competition kicks off on Saturday, July 24.