Archive for the Off Hours Category

Jumpin' Higher

Finally hit the 5 month mark since getting my ACL repaired! Things have been progressing well, and for the first time in my career, I’ve been making sure to take my time and be patient with my recovery process.  In the past, I’ve always tested the water and started to do things a little earlier than planned.  Luckily I’ve never re-injured anything but I definitely wanted to stay on the safe side this time around.  According to the doctor, I should be back to doing full gymnastics in about a month!

I’ve been continuing to do things that are safe though, and every day, I’m doing more and more gymnastics-related movements.  As far as my physical therapy goes, I can finally do a single leg squat on the side that I got the surgery on.  I’ve been running a lot more and doing more advanced jumping exercises onto higher surface.  It’s been a long process but there’s still a little (lot?) more to go.  There’s a lot to be thankful for though.  I’m in a great environment, and I’ve been able to train with some of the best guys in Japan (and in the world).  Even being able to watch these guys has been a good learning experience during my recovery process.  I’ve never considered this injury to be completely negative.  In fact, it’s been incredibly valuable and I feel like I have gained (and continue to gain) so much out of it.

Madness at A&F!

After another week of training, I finally got the day off yesterday so I went to go visit my friend and former national teammate, at his job in Ginza, Tokyo.  He is currently working at the newly opened Abercrombie & Fitch, the first one to be opened in Asia.  I don’t know if there is a bigger, but it’s definitely the biggest one that I’ve seen.  The store was 11 stories!  That said, the line to get into the store was absolutely ridiculous!  The store clerk did a head count and apparently  there were 600 people waiting to get into the store.  Good thing I knew someone that worked there. I was let in through a secret entrance that went straight to the store.  Otherwise the wait would have taken forever, and plus it was freezing cold today.  I’m curious to know if this craze will last!

First A&F in Asia!

The line to get into the store extended several blocks!

After that, I went and saw another Cirque show, “Corteo,” which was playing in Harajuku, Tokyo.  This was actually the second time I saw the show because it came to San Francisco several years ago.  Anyway, after the show, I had a chance to visit a friend after who I used to compete with.  He used to be on the Brazilian national team but is now retired and is performing in Cirque shows around the world.  When he took me backstage, I was surprised to see several other familiar faces that I’ve met through the gymnastics community.  It’s always cool seeing people you know on the complete opposite side of the world! It’s times like these that I feel very appreciative for having been in this sport and for all the friendships I’ve made through being a gymnast.


Anyway, it’s back to training again.  I have a couple more days until we’re released for winter break so I’m trying to make the next few days of training as productive as possible!

Visit to NSSU

The last few days have been really busy for me. I came back from Aichi prefecture on Monday and the very next day, I went to Nippon Sports Science University (Nittaidai) to train and visit my friends there. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see Kohei as he was out of the gym (some press conference stuff?) but I did get to train with the other guys.  Plus, I saw him a couple of days ago at the Toyota Cup.  Nevertheless, I did get to spend some time with my old coach Yoshi Hatakeda.

Entrance to the University

I was amazed when I saw the training facility.  It was probably the biggest gym that I’ve ever been in, and there were multiple equipments for every event!  There were also an army of guys on the collegiate team (I think at least 50 on the men’s side) so it was a very different but fun environment to be in.  There are no colleges in the US with that many members on the gymnastics team.  I think it would be awesome to be training with that many people though.  Lots of things to see all at once!

That night, a couple of my friends from the Konami Sports Center came and visited me when they heard that I was going to be training there.  Recently the Konami team won the Japanese Championships so I had a chance to talk to them about that.  It’s always great seeing old friends and catching up.

On my way back from Nittaidai the next day, I stopped by to see some of my family and had dinner with them.  We went out for yakiniku, which is when we cook different kinds of meat on a grill (basically a Japanese style barbecue?).  I’ve been eating a lot of good food since I got here, but that was definitely one of the best meals I’ve had so far!  Let me know if you guys know of any good restaurants (reasonable price) that I should visit in the Tokyo area!

Where'd My Shoes Go?

I’m finally home after a 5.5 hour car ride back from Toyota City.  It was a long trip but definitely worth it!

Overall, I thought that the level of competition was really high.  It was especially exciting to see the three world champions from China compete on their specialties, and the Japanese guys do their thing.  In the end, the Chinese and the Japanese gymnasts split the golds (pommel horse, rings, parallel bars – China; floor, vault, high bar – Japan).  These two teams are deep and they are definitely the teams I look up to in terms of the level of difficulty and the artistic aspect of gymnastics.  There were some notable mistakes on each event, but I figured that some of the gymnasts took some time off after the World Championships and are not yet back in 100% shape.  Regardless, it was a good opportunity for me to be able to watch a high-level competition and I left the arena feeling really motivated!

The venue for the Toyota Cup

"Toyota International Gymnastics Competition"

Me and my teammates from the US

Me and the US girls, Kytra and Mackenzie

Outside of the competition arena, I had a great time seeing my friends.  I had the chance to spend some time with my teammates from the US, as well as my friends on the Japanese team.  On the last day, all of us had the chance to get together at the farewell banquet.  The great thing about gymnastics, or sports in general is that while we are competitive on the competition floor, once the competition finishes, we are all good friends!

Me and some of the guys on the Japanese team

I guess the only bad thing about the trip was that I got my shoe taken (or stolen, however you want to look at it) at a restaraunt on the second to last day I was there.  That night, I went to a traditional Japanese restaurant with some of the Japanese coaches where you have to take off your shoes before entering the room (zashiki style room – 座敷).  When we were leaving the restaurant after finishing eating, I looked into the shoe box, only to realize that my shoes were gone.  The only conclusion we could come up with was that someone from the other table that left before us, took my shoe by accident as they all seemed incredibly drunk.  Anyway accidents happen but I DO need new shoes!

Tomorrow, I’m leaving to go to Yokohama to train and visit my friends at Japan Sports Science University (Nittaidai).  This is the university where Kohei Uchimura trains, so I’ll get to see him again even though I just saw him over the weekend at the Toyota Cup.  I’m excited to go and see how everyone is doing and to be able to train with my old coach, Yoshi Hatakeda.

There Sure Are A Lot of Toyotas Here…

After a 5 hour car ride from Chiba (would’ve been much quicker if traffic wasn’t so congested through Tokyo), I got into Aichi prefecture late last night.  Big thanks to my coach, Mutusmi for driving because I don’t have a driver’s license in Japan.

You’re probably wondering what I’m doing here.  Well, first of all Aichi is home to the world’s number one car manufacturer, Toyota.  I love Toyota cars (Lexus also) so I’m hoping to visit their show room.  Second of all, and probably the more important reason I’m here, is that it’s also hosting the annual Toyota International Championships this weekend.  I came down here to help the meet as an interpreter (if they need me), and to root on my teammates from the US team, as well as my friends on the Japanese team.  My old teammates from Stanford, Tim and Alex, who just made the US senior team this year are here along with my buddy, Alex Artemev.  Another good friend that I’ve been training with since I got to Japan, Koki Sakamoto will be representing Japan.

It’ll be a fun and exciting weekend.  Four champions from the London Worlds are here, including the three Chinese guys (pommels, rings, and parallel bars champions), as well as Kohei, who won the all-around.  This will be another opportunity for me to watch and learn from the best during my recovery phase!

Stay tuned for highlights and impressions from the meet!

Making Progress!

Just got back from my weekly rehab at the hospital and things are looking good.  Had the chance to speak with the doc and it seems like the ligament is strong and I’m starting to gain more volume in my leg.  As for power output, my left leg is obviously still weaker than the right but they said that it should get stronger as I start to add some new exercises to my training regimen.

That being said, we worked on some new jumping and landing drills.  One involved jumping off of a block and rebounding back.  The PT also had me jump up and do half turns in mid-air.  Both exercises seem rather boring  to a normal athlete (or even a normal person) but I was having a ball, given that I was only able to do some simple squatting exercises over the last several months.  I bet the PT thought I was nuts because I kept wanting to do more!

Anyway, I have to remember to work smart and not over-do.  I’m nearing my 5 month post-surgery mark, where things should start to feel pretty good again.  I can’t wait to see more improvements and to be able to be back in the gym 100%!

Some Encouragement

Just read an awesome article written by my old teammate at Stanford.  Tim was on the team in the mid-90s and was on the national team for many years. I believe he just got his Ph.D from Harvard and is also working there now.

I don’t consider myself to be religious (I’m very spiritual though) but his article gave me some encouragement during my comeback process from my knee injury.  While this injury has been frustrating to deal with, I’m realizing everyday that there’s been a lot of positives and opportunities attached to it.  I’ve also met a lot of supportive people throughout this whole process.

I’m definitely making my way back.  I know that there will be some struggles along the way but it only helps me appreciate all the good things in life, no matter how small, and to not take things for granted.

Anyway please take a look at Tim’s article here: The Olympic Promised Land


Had the opportunity to go watch Cirque Du Soleil’s “ZED” today, and I have to say that it was probably the best Cirque show that I have seen yet.  I’ve never been to a Cirque show (I’ve been to several) that I didn’t like but I definitely thought that the performances in ZED were amazing.  I won’t say much more because I would hate to spoil the show but for those who have never seen it I definitely recommend it.  In fact, if you’ve never seen a Cirque show, then you’re missing out.  There’s Cirque shows going on all over the place.  In fact, I know that there is show, “Corteo” playing in Tokyo, and for all of you in the Bay Area, there’s one playing in San Francisco.

The ZED logo projected onto a wall

The venue for ZED was also really nice, and being that it was right next to Tokyo Disneyland, made it even better.  Didn’t get to go into the actual park but all the decorations and illuminations during this time of the year was really fun to see.

The ZED Venue

Anyway, I can tell why a lot of my friends are in Cirque.  It’s a great way to continue to keep performing after retiring.  It must also be really fun to be able to perform in front of such a large crowd!

Cirque often goes around the world to recruit people for their shows.  If you’re an athlete, artist, performer and are interested check out their site here!

Rain: Go That Way ==>

The weather has been up and down ever since I got here over a month ago.  Sometimes it’ll be warm and sunny, and the next day it’ll be raining cats and dogs.  According to my coach, this type of weather is pretty normal during the winter (someone please correct me if I’m wrong).  Each time it rains, the temperature drops until it turns into winter.

Today was actually no-good for me because I went off to practice without looking at the weather report, and being that it was sunny, I thought it was going to stay that way the whole day.  I turned out to be completely wrong, and to make matters worse, I forgot my umbrella at home.  The worst part about the whole thing was I usually have to walk about 10 minutes from the bus stop back to my house.  I was lucky though as I was wearing a water-proof jacket that my friend got me before I left for Japan (Nick – if you’re reading this: Thanks!!!).  Nevertheless, it’ll be a long rainy season for me.  When I get back to California in January, the rainy season will begin (if not it’ll begin pretty soon after).

On a good note, I have the opportunity to go watch “ZED,” a Cirque Du Soleil show stationed in Tokyo.  I’m a big fan of Cirque shows, and being that I’m a gymnast with a lot of gymnast friends, I know a lot of people that perform in these shows.  I’ve been wanting to see ZED for a while so I’m very excited to go see it!  It’ll be a fun experience!

Tokyo's Cirque Show - ZED

Training Update

It’s been about 4.5 months since I had my knee repaired and I’m gradually starting to look like a gymnast again.  The only problem is I’m not supposed to do anything too risky yet because there’s the possibility of tweaking my knee from falling off an equipment.  That being said, I’ve been doing a ton of basics. There is one problem, however, my wrist and elbow hurts!  Like I said before, it’s not that I’ve been taking time off (I’ve been continuing with conditioning this whole time) but the stress that the body is put under when doing real gymnastics is actually a lot more than many people (even gymnasts) think. I just have to make sure that I don’t overdo it and aggravate my healthy parts!

With All Japan over, the atmosphere in the gym is a lot more relaxed.  Most of the guys do not have any competitions until the spring so they are training new skills.  It’s much more easy for me to train with them now that they are done with doing routines for a while.  It’s funny because if I was in the States right now, the guys in the gym would be working on routines and getting ready for the season coming up.  The competitive season here is pretty much the opposite of the US’s.  Nevertheless, I think that this is a great atmosphere for me to be in, especially at this stage in my comeback process!