118 senior men to compete at U.S. Classic!

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Oof, I do not envy whoever has to figure out the logistics of such a roster. Especially when it’ll be WAG that has everybody’s focus.
 
Good to see Vahe Petrosan
He’s automatically qualified as a +1 to Pan American Games.
I don’t recall seeing him compete last year.
 
I was overwhelmed by this at first but now I’m actually really moved that we now have 118 elite male gymnasts in the US who believe in working to compete at this level. It’s the most encouraging thing about the MAG program I’ve seen in a while. We’ve already seen the inter-team competition really leveling everyone up when there are more athletes at this ability.
 
Not sure how likely it is, but I’d like to see Khoi Young nail the fuck out of pommels from Classics onward and make the World team. Especially as he was injured at Nats last year and couldn’t compete everything IIRC.

Hopefully PH plus a good VT score and one other improved event will be enough to make it.

It will be interesting to see how he does on PH compared to Nedoroscik, who I also like.
 
I kind of want to go now. That’s going to be a HELL of a meet to watch.
 
There are going to be two men’s sessions because there were so many people.

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I wonder why they didn’t just do 3 sessions. It would have been very tidy — no “byes” needed.
 

Sidelined with setbacks in 2022, Paul Juda seeks health and happiness in 2023 starting with the U.S. Classic​

by Christy Sandmaier

After the 2022 NCAA Championships Paul Juda was on top of the world. In many ways, you couldn’t have written a better ending for Juda’s junior season at Michigan than bringing home two NCAA titles (one on vault and one in the All-Around) and the wave of confidence that comes with edging out the two-time All-Around NCAA Champion and reigning U.S. National Champion Brody Malone . His performance set the stage beautifully for the remainder of the year as his focus shifted to the U.S. Championships in Tampa and the World Championships in Liverpool a month later. The message was clear: Juda was in it to win it.

The plan was to go full steam ahead, using the U.S. Classic as a warmup for the U.S. Championships where fans were eagerly awaiting a re-match between Juda and Malone. But life had other plans.

At the 2022 U.S. Classic in Salt Lake City, Juda hyperextended his left knee in warm ups right before the competition began, which not only forced him out of the Classic, but the U.S. Championships as well. Juda was able to return in time for the World Championships selection camp but was limited to just four events. After making a few mistakes at the camp, he was ultimately named a non-traveling alternate.

Always one to look at the positive side of a bad situation, Juda used the moment to grow, finding ways he could continue to get better.

“Coming back from my knee injury, it kind of forced me to look at the areas in my gymnastics that I wasn’t giving as much attention to,” Juda said. “I was really able to get more done on parallel bars, pommel horse and high bar. It was a good comeback and I’m happy to say that that injury – knock on wood – is all healed up now. It took a hefty chunk of time but when it was right, it felt right, and I didn’t want to rush it by any means!”

Juda was ready to turn the page in 2023, but then the injury bug hit again. “You know, you think you’re all good with the injuries and you’re excited to get back after being sidelined for so many months, and it just hits ya,” Juda said. “That’s gymnastics!”

What Juda described as a “freak accident” on high bar resulted in an ankle injury that took him out of his senior season at Michigan. Despite the disappointment, more valuable lessons were learned.

“It was a clumsy error of mine and one that I’ve definitely learned from,” Juda said. “I take it that I had to learn the hard way in all senses of the phrase. It taught me to be super mindful of all my turns, it taught me to make real goals on every turn. Each turn counts and each turn could have a catastrophic ending or a really good ending.”

Juda thought he might be ready to return to competition on a few events at the 2023 NCAA Championships. He felt really good about his team’s chances of bringing home an NCAA title – in fact it was the most confident he had felt in his career – and wanted to help his team reach that goal. But after missing his hand on parallel bars in warm ups, Juda sustained another minor injury that wasn’t worth the risk that came with competing.

“We made the executive decision as a group, my coaches and I, that if I’m not gonna be at 100% then it’s not worth burning an extra year of eligibility on a competition that I don’t feel 100% at,” Juda said. “We made that executive call there and sadly that’s all she wrote.”

Going from the top of the medal podium to standing on the sidelines injured has been a huge challenge, especially as the Paris 2024 Olympics inch closer and closer. But Juda has found solace in the journey by keeping a positive mindset and focusing on what he can control. Sometimes the work goes far beyond the skills you throw in the gym.

“Who doesn’t like doing gymnastics when they are on fire and hitting six for six and their body doesn’t hurt? Who doesn’t love gymnastics in those moments?” Juda said. “But it’s in the moments that you have to push through the pain and you have to push through the monotonous grind of doing the same recovery things, knowing that you aren’t at full strength every single day, that’s when you figure out who you are and what gymnastics means to you. In the last couple of months I’ve been doing just that. Figuring out what gymnastics is to me, who I am, what my relationship with the sport is, and that’s kind of been my journey the last few months. I know I’ve been out of the competition scene, but I’ve definitely been working.”

In just a few weeks Juda will walk into the NOW Arena for his first major Elite competition in over a year. Whether or not he will compete all six events or just focus on a few will be a meet day decision based on how his body feels. (Safety is of course his biggest priority these days!) However, Juda feels comfortable with his progress as he gears up for his competitive return.

“I would say I’m slowly getting back there,” Juda said. “If I were to say that my best performance to date was at the NCAA Championships in 2022, I’m approaching there. I’m trying to get back to that prime level and also push past it with the newfound strength from all the rehab and conditioning I did during those injuries. I’m getting there!”

For now, Juda is keeping his future upgrades under wraps, “It’s nice for a magician not to reveal all his secrets!” he says, but emphasized the energy he has put toward improving his execution score.

“Doing a 5.0 with a 9.0 execution is the same gosh darn 14-score that a 6.5 and 7.5 execution present to,” Juda said. “But I’ll tell you what – a 5.0 is a lot less scary presenting in a really clutch situation!”

Paris 2024 remains the long term goal, but there’s a lot of time and a lot that could happen between now and then. Juda’s goals for the remainder of 2023 are rather simple. First and foremost, stay healthy and have fun.

“The highest goal is to stay healthy – I can’t stress that one enough,” Juda said. “That would probably be my first, second and third goal if you were to ask me. Making it through competitions with some scratches and bruises I can deal with, but having to resign from competitions is something I don’t want to do anymore. The second one truthfully would be to have a good time, to enjoy the moment.”

For the first time in his Michigan career, Juda has a large group of teammates training at the Elite level alongside him – nearly enough to fill a full rotation group at a competition. Four of his teammates are scheduled to compete at the U.S. Classic (albeit Juda will be competing in session 1, his teammates are in session 2). Fellow Wolverines Landen Blixt and Fred Richard will be in China competing at the World University Games and have already qualified for the U.S. Championships.

The opportunity to train every single day with such a talented group of gymnasts has inspired his final goal for the season – be the absolute best teammate and cheerleader he can be.

“It’s been remarkable watching these guys win too, day to day,” Juda said. “Watching everybody improve slowly but surely. I would say to be a good cheerleader for my team, to watch them succeed and be happy for them… To not get jealous of anybody else’s successes and just be excited and really be thankful that I’m there for the competition. All of those things underscore the word mindful and I think that’s my goal for the next couple of competitions. Do my gymnastics, focus on myself, focus on my team, be a cheerleader for others, and overall just be a good beacon of hope for this sport.”

 

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