Ruggeri, Maestas Look to London
Subscribe or renew for 3 years and receive a FREE poster
autographed by Shawn Johnson! Subscribe Today!
Ruggeri, Maestas Look to London
By Elizabeth Grimsley
Ever since last year, Illini Paul Ruggeri and C.J. Maestas have been doing gymnastics non-stop. “It’s been kind of crazy. Last year I came off my ankle injury as fast as I could, went to Pan Ams, and tried to take everything I could from that experience,” Ruggeri said. “It was an amazing experience. Then me and C.J. just barged right into training for the NCAA season.”
During the collegiate season, the duo was competing nearly every weekend, ending the season on a high note by winning the University of Illinois’s first men’s gymnastics national title since 1989. “We didn’t have a perfect meet at NCAAs, but we were able to pull it out and be on top at the end of the day and be a part of history for our university,” Ruggeri said. “That’s the reason why I came to the University of Illinois– to win a national title. We finally did it and I kind of fulfilled everything that I could do in NCAA gymnastics.” For Maestas, his first NCAA season was a completely different than he had ever had before. “We came off the big win at NCAAs and that was amazing. I still get goose bumps to this day thinking about it,” he said. “It sounds cliché, but we seriously work so hard. It’s just surreal.”
However, the end of the season didn’t mark a time for rest and relaxation like most of their other competitors. For Ruggeri and Maestas, winning the first national championship in 23 years was just the beginning as the Visa Championships were right around the corner. Throw in international assignments– and not to mention classes– and the pair had a very full plate. Going into Visas, they wanted to keep the same winning mentality that they ended the college season with. “That’s what I want to bring to this Visa Championships– that same attitude,” Maestas said. “Of course, being an Olympic year, we’re on the bubble now. The time is now, so we’re ready to just go out there and show them what [we] can do.”
Ruggeri admits that the secret to success is to just believe that you can do it and the rest will happen on its own. “We have the talent,” he said. “We have the drive, and the passion for it; we just have to put it together.”
Both Ruggeri and Maestas are known for their beautiful gymnastics but only when they hit. Somewhat inconsistent on the competition floor, they’re just looking to put together clean, hit routines to show the selection committee that they can be counted on in a three-up-three-count situation.
“I’ve always been the guy who has potential but never really puts it together,” Maestas said. “I feel like college gymnastics has taught me [that] every weekend you have a competition that you have to do good at. I’m ready to go out and hit. It’s nothing more excuses.”
In terms of fitting into the puzzle, Ruggeri finds himself on the bubble. His strengths come on high bar, vault, and floor– three events where the U.S. has many other contenders. He may not have the difficulty of Steve Legendre or Jake Dalton on floor, Ruggeri’s execution could put him in that mix. At the 2012 NCAA Championships he stuck his Yurchenko half-on laid-out double for a share of the national title on the event. He also tied with Danell Leyva for the high score on high bar for the first day of the Visa Championships with a 15.850.
Maestas is in a little bit better shape seeing as his strengths come on rings and pommel horse– two weaknesses of the United States. “The team is a little slacking on those events,” Maestas said. “We have great guys on those events, but we need a little bit more push. I feel like I can be that guy to do it. It’s a five men team, and also we’re going to need floor, vaults, pbar, high bar, everything. I upgraded high bar a little bit. I do the Cassina to Kolman now and am cleaning up pbars. My gymnastics is refined now.”
Both Illini are fighting for a ticket to London, so all they can do now is wait to see what fate hands them. “I’m always in good shape even though I don’t believe I am,” Ruggeri said. “I’m always ready to go even though I don’t think I am. It’s always about feeling prepared for me, and I’ve finally achieved the harmony. I feel really ready to go.”
“It would be awesome to go out here and blow some people out of the water,” he said. “Give them a little surprise during the selection process.”
Check back here to see more updates and join the conversation on Facebook: www.facebook.com/insidegymnastics & Twitter @insidegym. Look for more coverage in the next issue of Inside Gymnastics magazine! http://www.subscribeig.com.
Photos by Lloyd Smith
Click here to advertise with us