Shane Wiskus, 22, of Spring Park is going to the Tokyo Games.
“It just hit me like a freight train,” he said. He’d been practicing gymnastics since age 3, competing since age 7. Wiskus’ performance at the June 24 and 26 Olympic Trials earned him one of four spots on the 2021 U.S. Men’s Gymnastics Team.
“He finished that pommel horse, and I was sitting right in front of him,” said Dale Bullivant. Bullivant had coached Wiskus for eight years at Orono’s North Shore Gymnastics. He said it was nerve-wracking, knowing that pommel horse was what his former trainee had had some trouble with.
“It was surreal, it was just such an unbelievable moment,” added Tammy Wiskus, Shane’s mother. “I immediately had all these flashbacks from when he had started talking about it when he was 7 years old...just so many different memories flashing.”
Getting to the Olympics wasn’t a straight path, not in that final year that led up to it.
Shane started prep for what would have been the 2020 Games just as the coronavirus pandemic was taking hold. Last spring was a series of isolated workouts—some of them working over pommel horse in the grass—capped by a return to the University of Minnesota, where he found the Men’s Gymnastics program was one of four programs eliminated through budget cuts.
Pack up. Move out.
Shane uprooted to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, grateful that his current coach, Kostya Kolesnikov, came with him.
Then came the national championships.
Three weeks before Olympic Trials, Shane had fallen off the high bar three times. He had been second going into the last rotation at nationals, but a small mistake on T Bars hurt his wrist and shook his composure.
“That last routine, the high bar routine—the way I see it is, I kinda look at it as a fluke and a test of my mental strength,” said Shane.
Shane has been working with Robert Andrews, a sports psychologist out of Houston, since he was 12, and mom Tammy said this work has been integral to her son’s gymnastics, pointing out the mental focus required of gymnasts who perfect a technique by failing over and over and over.
Andrews has helped get his head “aligned where it needs to be,” said Shane.
“I was able to look at that mistake on high bar and look at it a little more critically and think that maybe this was a good thing. There’s going to be many more times in this season where I’m going to be under intense pressure, and there might be moments where I lose a little bit of focus and I’m going to need to pull myself back just to keep myself grounded and focused on the task at hand,” he said. “I think that [nationals] was a good realization of the kind of mental strength I needed to work on going into the Trials and the Olympic Games.”
Shane completed his training camp July 10 and left for Tokyo five days later. The Games start this week, July 21, and he’ll join Brody Malone (Belfast, Tenn.), Yul Moldauer (Wellington, Colo.) and Sam Mikulak (Newport Coast, Calif.) in representing the U.S.A. as part of the 2021 Men’s Gymnastics team. Alec Yoder (Indianapolis, Ind.) was selected to the plus one quota spot.
“He’s set to go, and he’ll enjoy the experience. And soon as he’s done, he’ll set another goal for four years from now,” said Bullivant, his former coach.
“At this point, I’ve made my lifelong dream of becoming an Olympian come true and everything after this is kind of bonus,” said Shane, laughing.
A brief pause, then: “My goal is to go out there and win a medal and put Men’s Gymnastics back on the radar,” he said. “I want to bring home hardware so people have pride in our sport and our country, but I also think competing and representing something other than yourself is more comforting than just going out there and competing with your name.”
That includes serving as an advocate for the sport he loves—and then, as a Gopher, lost.
“The current state of our sport, and the current trend of getting rid of Olympic sports here and there and dropping programs left and right, makes me wonder what the future of our sport looks like if there’s no place for college students to train and develop a lot of their competitive skills that I was able to get in my time as a Gopher,” said Shane. College programs are a “key component in getting us on the podium and seeing Olympic success,” he said.
For the full Olympics schedule and where to watch, visit https://www.nbcolympics.com/full-schedule.