Sept. 11, 2012
Three current University of Michigan student-athletes competed at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and MGoBlue.com caught up with each of them to recap their experience. The second entry in the three-part series focuses on junior men's gymnast Sam Mikulak, who finished fifth in the vault individual event finals with a combined score of 16.050.
On the experience in general ... "The best experience of my life. It was a dream come true, and it was the most surreal time that I could have ever imagined it to be. It was awesome competing for team USA, and representing Michigan. It was everything I thought it was going to be and more."
Q: How did the team results influence your performance as an individual competitor?
"The one goal I came in with was to win the team competition, and when it came for me to do my individual part I knew it was all on me and I wanted to go out there and have a good time. I felt that I was in my own zone when it came time for me to do my individual event and perform to the best of my ability and just tried to have as much fun as possible."
Q: At times did you feel intimidated?
"Not really, because I was actually one of the taller guys there (laughs). I knew it was tough competition. I just wanted to go out there and land two vaults and show everybody that I'm a force to be reckoned with on the international stage."
Q: Who was the most famous Olympian that you met?
"Probably (Michael) Phelps and (Ryan) Lochte, as swimming being the biggest sports to watch at the Olympics. They probably got the most publicity. I met Nathan Adrian and Serena Williams. Those are just some of the bigger names that I met."
Q: What were some other Olympic events that you attended?
"I think track was the coolest. BMX was really fun to watch, but track, that whole arena, everyone was filling it out --80,000 people all watching -- the British pole vaulter and all of the different events that were going on. It just seemed like there was a lot to watch."
Q: What are some perks of being an Olympian in London?
"I think it was just more about competing out there. That was the most exciting part, getting escorted through the tunnels. Security always around you, making you feel like a celebrity -- got me thinking this is a big deal. People would come up and they would be like 'no, no back off he is going to compete.' So just kind of getting that special attention from everybody because it is such a prideful time of the four years that it comes around, and everybody is just trying to make it as professional as possible."
Q: What was your favorite place to see in London?
"We got out a little bit. The USA house was where they would always host American gatherings and stuff. You got to meet quite a few other athletes there. Myself and John Orozco did an interview in the London Eye where we got to check out scenery, so that was pretty cool."
Q: What was the Olympic Village like?
"It was very well kept. Not knowing much about any of the past villages. What I heard was it was the most professional and secure. In Beijing, they said people were just bringing people in left and right. There wasn't that sense of security quite as much and the Beijing one was huge and this one was a little more close together. I think it was easier for people to interact, which was great."
Q: What other Olympians that you met will you stay in touch with?
"There is a runner, Geena Gall, she ran at Michigan and won two NCAA titles, and I still talk to her. McKayla Maroney, a member of the women's gymnastics team, and one of the BMX girls, Brooke Crain, who is also from California. Connor Jaeger, another current Michigan athlete, is someone that I can talk to; we ran into each other a few times being here. Those are kind of the four main people that I have still kept in touch with."
Q: Did you know Connor Jaeger before the Olympics?
"We didn't before. While we were there we got introduced. We talked about Michigan and then came back and then just talked more about the Olympics. We kind of have that base to bond off."
Q: What Michigan connections did you make while in London?
"Kurt (Golder) pretty much introduced me to the whole swimming team, and (Michael) Phelps was from Michigan. There was a lot of people from Michigan over there, which was great. We all talked about the whole Michigan lifestyle, Ann Arbor, places they like. I felt like we all had a solid ground to get to know each other off of and had conversation starters."
Q: Did you see fellow Michigan gymnast Syque Caesar often?
"We didn't get to see each other very much because he left earlier and I was competing pretty much the whole time through or training. Although we did get to compete, we weren't in the same rotation or have the same training times. I didn't really get to see him as much as I thought we would have been able to. He had a great time and I had a great time."
Q: Since being back from London have you been getting more recognition?
"I get at least four people a day come up to me are like, 'Are you Sam Mikulak? It was nice watching you, you had so much energy.' They just always say positive things. It's cool getting to meet everybody and I guess it's a good conversation starter. Everybody is pretty friendly here at Michigan."
Q: How is your ankle feeling post-Olympics?
"I got a cortisone shot, so the ankle should be healthier. The whole point of the shot is I have a lot of scar tissue up in the front part of my foot and the cortisone is going to reduce it, and then it will give me a range of motion for a while. I just have to build the strength in that flex range of motion. This way, if I do have a short landing I'll be able to handle it since my muscles won't be as weak as they were last year."
Past Olympic Q&As
Connor Jaeger (Sept. 7)