Ngai’s age isn’t holding the Illinois gymnast back


Illinois’ Logan Bradley pauses in his routine at the meet against Michigan on March 12, 2016.

By James Boyd

Tweet: Age doesn’t faze #Illini 17-year-old Brandon Ngai, @lbrad5 gears up for his final #B1G title run.

Sophomore Brandon Ngai’s rise to
pommel horse prominence has been one of the most talked about stories
of the Illinois men’s gymnastics team this season.

Aside from his one missed routine
at home against Michigan, the 17-year-old has won or tied for the event title at
every competition this year, including a career-high 15.600 against the undefeated and No. 1 Oklahoma – bringing his career crown total to

Illinois head coach Justin Spring
says that Ngai’s recruitment which was complicated by his age was unlike any other coaching experience he has
ever had and is one he surely won’t forget. 

“After the first email, I believe
my response was, ‘Are you 14 or are you a junior in high school?’” Spring said.
“And (his response) was ‘Yes.’”

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    Spring says the event
    specialist’s weird response threw him off at first, but after Ngai explained to
    him that he had skipped two grades, things started to make more sense.

    “I think I had to triple
    confirm,” Spring said. “I was like, ‘So you’re going to graduate high school
    with this date of birth?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ So I was like, ‘Okay let’s
    do this.’”

    When he came to Illinois at 16 years old, Ngai was the youngest member of the Illinois men’s varsity gymnastics team ever and the youngest known athlete to compete for the University.

    Ngai has become one of the best pommel horse gymnasts in the country
    and his head coach does not believe it has been by chance. 

    Spring says that the
    event specialist’s attention to detail and relentless work ethic has allowed
    him to perform very well throughout his sophomore campaign despite his age. It is something he expects Ngai to continue when Illinois heads to Columbus, Ohio, for the Big Ten Championships this weekend.

    Bradley’s last Big Ten Championships

    After dozens of competitions throughout
    his four years at the University of Illinois, senior Logan Bradley is itching
    to compete in his final Big Ten Championships.

    Earlier this week the Illini
    team captain tweeted that he can’t keep his mind off of Friday’s competition
    and believes his team will be ready.

    “I’ve been reflecting a lot on
    the past Big Ten Championships that we’ve competed in,” Bradley said. “Having
    competed in a bunch of them, I’ve been watching videos and stuff. I’ve just been getting
    excited about the whole different atmosphere that the Big Ten Championship is.”

    Bradley went on to say that he is
    certainly focused on the upcoming meet, but admitted that he does find himself
    getting nostalgic about the little time he has left with his team. The senior
    said that he is trying to soak up every moment, because what once seemed
    so far away – the end of his collegiate career – is just around the corner.

    Entering one of the biggest meets
    of his life this Friday, Bradley believes that as Illinois’ leader, he must not
    let the finality and nostalgia of the event turn him into a prisoner of the
    moment. Balancing his emotions has proved to be a tough task for Bradley over
    the last few weeks, but one image helps to keep the senior grounded when he
    feels himself getting a bit overwhelmed.

    “For me it all just comes back to
    my dream of holding that trophy up,” Bradley said. “I think of what I’d do.
    Whether I’d like kiss it or something like that that … It’s every athlete’s
    dream … so whenever I get sidetracked, I think of that idea and it brings me
    back to what I need to do.”

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