Spring takes silver at American Cup

By Mike Czapar

Junior Illinois gymnast Justin Spring had what you might consider a “long day” on his way to compete in the 2005 American Cup. After being delayed in an airport for three and a half hours, Spring and head coach Yoshi Hayasaki spent two and a half hours with a lost cab driver, eventually finishing a twelve hour day of traveling in Long Island, N.Y.

Travel problems aside, Spring managed to make some noise competing for the national team, winning a silver medal on the high bar with a score of 9.50. Spring’s score put him in a tie for second with Japan’s Hisashi Mizutori and behind Yann Cucherat of France.

In a meet that featured Olympians and top athletes from around the world, Spring showed he has the talent to compete with some of the world’s best.

“It was really exciting competing with some of the world’s best athletes, and a lot of Olympians,” Spring said. “I knew going into the event finals that I had to be flawless, and I came pretty close. I was really happy with the set I hit, and now I just need to focus on adding some more difficulty to my routine.”

Hayasaki was proud of Spring’s strong performance and his determination to improve his execution between the preliminaries and the finals.

“Justin’s routine today was even better than yesterday,” Hayasaki said. “Everyone had cleaner, more polished routines for the final and Justin was no exception. I’m pleased at the way he stepped up to the challenge that comes with competing against Olympic medalists.

“For Justin to come out in second place is a huge accomplishment in his first National team competition and I only expect him to get better.”

Because of injuries, Spring has been competing on a limited basis, and hopes to be competing in other events besides high bar for Team USA when he is healthy. Despite not being 100 percent, Spring has still managed to nab some impressive awards.

“To have him compete after such a big travel delay and all the adversity he’s faced this season with injuries, and to still come out on top, is really great,” Hayasaki said. “This is just one large step for Justin toward making his name known internationally. The next step for him is to bump up his routine with some more difficulty so he can really make a run for the gold.”

Because of the subjectivity of judging in gymnastics, name recognition tends be a factor in the determination of scores. Spring said he hopes his accomplishment this weekend will help him in future international and national competitions.

“Judges evaluate guys that they know and have seen before a little easier than guys they’ve never heard of,” Spring said. “When they see little errors, but they know the athlete is good, they tend to overlook the small deductions.”

Spring will be back in orange and blue this weekend, as the Illini take on Iowa and the Japan All-Stars at Huff Hall. Spring said he will be glad to be back with his teammates, and did not like having to miss a meet for the national team.

“That was the first meet I’ve missed, and I really didn’t like not being there,” Spring said. “I had to have somebody call me every few minutes and give me updates.”