GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — California native and former University of Michigan gymnast Sam Mikulak will fight for a spot in his third — and final — Olympics as the trials get underway in St. Louis.
Assuming he makes it to Tokyo, Sam Mikulak says he will retire after the games.
“I will admit that this whole quarantine period has been a lot of time for reflection,” Mikulak said.
Like for everyone hoping to compete in the Olympics, the training cycle has been a nightmare for him after the games were postponed last summer. He had to shift gears from ramping up for competition to trying to figure out how to stay in shape.
“Gymnastics is very difficult because it is very equipment-based, so I did a lot of home core workouts,” Mikulak said.
His biggest challenge was a wrist injury that actually worsened with rest.
“My physical ability seems to be dwindling,” he said.
That’s what sparked some of the reflection and prompted Mikulak to announce his career would be coming to a close. He has no intention of trying for the 2024 Games in Paris — he says he just won’t be fit for competition.
“I’ve been feeling a shift in inspiration from being a gymnast to helping the gymnast community,” he added.
He started making YouTube videos to share his journey and training with fans and young gymnasts.
“The goal of it is to inspire other kids,” he said. “A lot of kids have told me I’m their idol. If they can see me going through the same struggles they are, even the best are going through difficult times and they’re persevering, (they’ll think) ‘I can persevere, too.'”
Mikulak is a six-time U.S. all-around champion, but he doesn’t have an Olympic medal. While he would love to win one, he said it won’t define him if he doesn’t.
“I really dove down into my soul during quarantine,” he said. “As I started thinking the Olympics wouldn’t happen, I realized I am totally cool with where I am right now and whether I get it or not isn’t going to make me any happier in life.”
Gymnastics trials begin Thursday and run through Sunday.