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Bad News Bears

11 Feb shonakamori No Comments »

I’m bummed to hear that Cal Men’s Gymnastics has officially been cut and that this will be their final season.  For the last couple of months people have been pulling together with the hopes of having the five sports that were initially cut to be reinstated.  Today, the final decision was made. The university decided to bring back three of the five sports. Baseball and Men’s Gymnastics were left in the dust.

Honestly, it’s a terrible day for men’s gymnastics in this country.  Not only will the current gymnasts need to decide what to do if they want to continue with the sport, but the up and comers will have one less option when deciding which college to attend if they plan on pursuing gymnastics through college. It’s also sad to know that UC Berkeley is one of the best universities in this country.

Lastly, I thought the whole reinstatement thing was an all or nothing deal.  If they were going to reinstate, they were going to bring all teams back.  Total bummer…

One Day at a Time

09 Feb shonakamori 2 Comments »

Another competition down and it’s back to the grind once again.  Although my main focus for the Winter Cup was just to compete and test the waters again, there was definitely a thought in the back of my mind of wanting to get myself back onto the national team.  Naturally I was disappointed when I realized that I did not, but at the same time, I felt that I made some huge strides after comparing this year’s Winter Cup to USAs last August.  For one, I felt much more comfortable competing.  On the flip side, I felt very out of tune at USAs, largely due to being out of competition for a year because of the surgery I had to repair my knee.  On the physical side, I felt I handled the two days of competition much better. The knee didn’t bother me nearly as much during meet, and I’m happy that it still feels pretty good even after the adrenaline has worn off.  That said, I guess I could say that I’m making some improvements both mentally and physically.

In all, Winter Cup was a good learning experience.  It was just another hurdle that I needed to cross over on my road to comeback.  I’m now back in the gym as usual.  There are some skills on the back-burner that I didn’t use at Winter Cup so I’ll be working on those, along with cleaning up the skills that I currently have.  Definitely looking forward to competing again in the summer.  But as they say, I’m making the most out of each practice and taking it one day at a time!

Off to Vegas!

02 Feb shonakamori 2 Comments »

It’s hard to believe it’s finally competition week.  The last I competed was at USA Championships six months ago and I have to say that I feel better, both physically and mentally, for this competition.  I’ll admit that I feel that I’m still on the mend and climbing back after my knee injury but this competition will be another great opportunity to test the waters again.

Anyway, the first day of competition is Thursday.  I’ve trained hard and prepared well so honestly there’s nothing else I can do at this point than to go out and compete.  I’m grateful to be back on the competition floor!

Down to Visalia

28 Jan shonakamori 1 Comment »

After having a productive week at work and in the gym, I’m totally ready for the weekend. However, tomorrow will be rather busy.  After morning training, I’ll be heading down to a city called Visalia to judge another boy’s meet.  Visalia is in central California.  Here’s a map of my route.

From the Bay to Visalia

It’ll be about a 3.5 hour drive each way.  I don’t think I’ve ever driven that much and back in one day but I think it’ll be good to get my mind off of all the clutter and to get away from the Bay Area for the day.  I have a lot of respect for the kids and parents in that area though.  I see them coming up to the Bay Area often for competitions.  It’s definitely a long drive and takes a ton of dedication. Anyway, I’m ready to get this weekend started!

Mas Invite and More

25 Jan shonakamori 1 Comment »

Just finished another busy weekend of judging a boy’s competition.  This time it was up in Sacramento.  As always I had a great time meeting a bunch of new people, as well as reconnecting with old friends I used to compete with, judges and parents.  One of the highlights this weekend was being able to see Mas Watanabe. In fact, this annual competition held at this gym in Sacramento is named after him: The Mas Watanabe Invitational.  For those of you that don’t know who Mas is, he’s been an influential part of USA Gymnastics for a very long time.  For a while he served as the National Team Director for the men’s side and has helped with developing the Junior level as well.  In fact, he used to come to all of the Junior National Team Camps when I was younger.  It’s been way too long since I’ve last seen him (probably about 5 years?), and it was great to see him doing well!

Mas Invite!

After the meet, I had the chance to catch up with my friend, Aki, over dinner.  Like Mas, she came to the US to coach gymnastics.  She came over to the US couple of years ago.  She’s a former world championship team member for Japan in ’99, and chance had it that she landed a job in Sacramento.  It’s always inspiring to see my Japanese friends working so hard.  I know it’s not an easy thing to do in a foreign country.

On the way back from judging, I visited one of my best friends, John, near the state capitol.  He recently started working for the new governor of California so he moved out to Sacramento not so long ago.  Glad to see him doing well and situated at his new place.  He even took me on a quick tour of the capitol!

Inside the Capitol (the Rotunda)

The Senate Chamber

View of the Capitol from outside

Overall it was a great weekend of seeing good friends!  Ready to start this week though.  One more week to go until Winter Cup and I’m looking forward to it!

Happy Birthday

19 Jan shonakamori 4 Comments »

I think it’s fairly common that when life gets busy, events and other things begin to mesh together and life becomes a huge blur. I’m definitely that type of person, but at the same time, there are several days within the year that reminds me to take a moment to pause, look around at the things I have, and appreciate.

One of those days is today, which is also my dad’s birthday.  If he was here today, he’d be 51.  Thinking now, I realize more and more that we lost a great man too early.  After all,the impact he had on the people around him, both in and out of the gym, was tremendous. I’ll admit that we had our share of difficult times when he used to be my coach.  There were countless days when I talked back and we threw harsh words at each other.  Most days, I saw the gym as a battlefield.  Sadly, it’s only now that  I genuinely realize that he was stricter with me because he cared, and because he wanted to shape me into a better gymnast, and a stronger person. Honestly, not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, and while things get tough every once in a while, my friends and family have always been there to give me the helping hand or the words of encouragement that I need to get back on my feet. And for that, I wanted to thank everyone once again for all the support and the continual support as I trek on with my journey.

Below is a one of the speeches I gave a couple of years ago (I might’ve already posted it some time ago) expressing my thanks to everyone for all that they’ve done and continue to do for me.

Oh, and one last thing, Happy Birthday Pops!

YouTube Preview Image

Catching Up!

16 Jan shonakamori 2 Comments »

Last week was fairly eventful for week me.  First of all, I got through another hard week of training in the gym.  Most of the emphasis was placed on numbers and getting my endurance up.  As an athlete, this is one of the most difficult times because you’re dealing with a lot of physical stress and pain. Thankfully I’m done!  Starting next week, my focus will be on less numbers but higher quality.  This will definitely help take some of the physical load off of my body and help me recover while I strengthen my mental side.

The exciting outside of the gym, was I reconnected with a friend that I haven’t seen in about 15 years!  We go way back to elementary school but lost touch when my friend had to move away after the 5th grade.  Thank goodness for Facebook though!  We randomly reconnected recently and was able to catch up with all that’s happened in the last 15 years!  When you think about it, that’s a pretty long blank so obviously that was pretty exciting for the both of us!

Another exciting thing this week was my old teammate, Dylan, decided to visit the bay area for the weekend.  It’s always fun hanging out with old teammates and hearing about all that’s new in their lives.  It’s great because I get a glimpse of what it’s like to be out working or getting a graduate degree because most of my old teammates from college are no longer gymnasts.  Anyway, Dylan is currently going to medical school and will eventually be saving thousands of lives.  With all the cool things that my old teammates are doing right now, I really can’t wait to see where we all end up in a couple of years!

Me and Dylan

Full Swing

10 Jan shonakamori No Comments »

One of the ways that I know that it’s the new year is when I realize that competition season has begun.  The only big difference is, unlike previous years when I was still competing for Stanford, I personally will not be competing as much.  This is because for all the non-collegiate gymnasts, there are only a select few meets per year.  On the other hand, the college guys compete almost every weekend, whether it be for dual meets, or a bigger invitational where more than two teams will go against each other.  I like the fact that I get some time off in between meets to recover and get strong again, but at the same time, I slightly miss traveling to a different location every weekend and competing with my teammates.

Speaking of competitions, I just got back from judging a junior-level competition yesterday.  It was my first judging assignment for this season so it was great to see all the gymnasts and the coaches again.  With training and work in full swing, and a couple of judging assignments here and there, the next couple of months will be fairly busy.  However, I’m definitely looking forward to all the events that are coming up.

Happy New Year!

02 Jan shonakamori No Comments »

Not much here aside from wanting to wish everyone a happy new year!  I also wanted to thank everyone for their continued support with my gymnastics and beyond!

Today I spent my time relaxing at home and eating a lot of good food.  I’ll leave off with a few pictures of the traditional Japanese food we always have for new years.  I’ll definitely need to work extra hard come Monday to burn off all the food I ate!

Celebratory Japanese new years' food. There's a meaning behind every dish and is meant to bring good fortune throughout the year.

Celebratory rice dish known as "Chirashi Sushi"

End of the Year = Start of a New Year!

30 Dec shonakamori No Comments »

Wow, I can’t believe that 2010 is already over!  With all the new beginnings and events, I feel like the year flew right by.  As I always do at the end of the year, I like to look back, remember, and appreciate all that’s happened over the year.  At times, when things get hectic and you get caught up in the “now,” it becomes easy to forget and take granted for some of the things that’s happened during that year.  I’m sure I’ve missed a few important things but I’ll try and remember to the best of my ability…

January was a pretty eventful month for me.  After spending three months for an abroad program in Japan, I was finally able to submit my work, sign some forms, and get that piece of paper (diploma) that I’ve been longing from Stanford for five long years.  While initially a bit reluctant to leave the States (because of time missed from rehab after my ACL injury), the three months I spent in Japan ended up being one of the most influential times of my life.  Living and interacting with Japanese people my age  helped me get better in touch with my roots. And, the opportunity I had to train with the Japanese not only helped the physical side of my gymnastics but my understanding and mentality towards the sport as well.  As for my rehab, I was set up with one of the best physical therapy team in Japan and the condition of my knee continued to progress during my time there.

As soon as I returned from Japan, I started working.  It was a new situation for me.  No more school but just as much work.  Today I hold three part-time jobs, and while I’ll admit that it’s been a bit of a struggle to juggle all of this with my regular training,  I feel that after dealing with it for a year, I’ve gotten the hang of it.  Not only has working helped me balance my life (otherwise I would’ve just sat around and become a video-game-playing-bum), I’ve learned a ton of lessons that I feel will become of value down the road.  Not to mention I’ve met a ton of great people along the way!

In the spring,  I was finally released from a long period of rehab after injuring my ACL in the summer of ’09 while competing at the Japan Cup for Team USA. Rehab was arduous, and at times, incredibly boring and mundane, but I knew from the get-go that there was no way around it.  When I finally got word that I could return to regular gymnastics training, it was like music to my ears.  However, although I remember feeling relieved and happy, I also felt nervous because at that point, I knew it was game time and that I had to somehow prepare myself to compete again in the summer.

The period from spring to summer was full of frustration, pain, and small gains.  The fact that I had not competed in over a year and that I was completely out of competition form made the comeback process incredibly difficult.  Honestly, I felt like whenever I made some progress, I would end up finding myself a couple of steps back only the very next day.  It was a vicious cycle.  But despite all of this, the culmination of the miniscule steps and the encouragement I received from the people around me, helped me get back on the competition floor again just in time for August’s USA Championships.  Although I was forced to water-down my sets because my knee and body wasn’t yet 100%, and the final result wasn’t what I had hoped for, I’m glad that I competed.  Doing so helped me remember what it felt like to compete again, and the rather short timeline I set helped me quickly get my body back into somewhat of a competition shape (of course I was smart about my injury along the way).  I think if I had set my comeback meet to a later date, I would’ve gotten lazier in training, saying to myself that I have a lot of time to get back into the swing of things.  Regardless of the result of that meet, I saw some value in the simple fact that I was back competing on all six events again.

And here I am now, at the end of the year!  While there are still days when my knee aches (especially on cold or rainy days), I’m glad to say that it’s getting closer to normal!  Training is going well and I’m currently preparing to compete again in about five weeks.  Outside of gym, I’ve had some time off of work during the holidays to rest my brain.  Honestly, there’s nothing to complain here and everything to be grateful for.  It’s all thanks to my friends, family, and coaches that helped me throughout this eventful year!  I have one more training left in 2010 and I’m ready to finish it strong.  The Japanese (myself included) believe that it’s important to finish the year properly, as it sets up the way things will be for the following year.  Speaking of which, I’ll also be going home after training to do a huge cleaning of my house.  Again, the Japanese believe that it’s important to clean every corner of the house before the year’s end so that we can welcome the new year with a fresh and clean slate.  At home, rather than going nuts and throwing a huge party, I’ll be relaxing at home with my mother (sadly my sister will not be able to come back from the east coast due to work), reflecting on what happened over the year, being grateful for what’s been given, and eating a ton of traditional/customary food with different meanings and fortune behind them .

With all that goes on, New Years is possibly my favorite holiday.  To all the people who have supported through 2010, thanks again and I wish you all a happy 2011!

Happy New Year!