New fire, new focus for Yul Moldauer

New fire, new focus for Yul Moldauer

Standing on the sidelines in Liverpool is not exactly what Yul Moldauer envisioned for himself in 2022. A World bronze medalist on floor in 2017 and an Olympian for Team USA in Tokyo, Moldauer has been on the scene and leading the team for quite some time, but with new talent rising and difficulty at the forefront, Moldauer didn’t fit the puzzle for the selection committee in 2022. 

Undoubtedly it was a decision that hurt, Moldauer said in Liverpool and reiterated during a media call on May 31, but in that moment he decided not to let emotions get the best of him. First he called former Sooner teammate Allan Bower for some advice. Bower, having been a World Alternate four times for the U.S. team, knew a thing or two about Moldauer’s position. 

“I took his advice and never said a bad comment,” Moldauer said. “He said to have the mindset as if you were competing with them. That’s kind of the approach I took; always being in high spirits and you know, I’m dealing with my own problems, it’s not up to these guys to help me. They are going on the highest level to represent our country, there is no way I should have some room to bring these guys down.” 

When the chalk dust settled and Moldauer returned home from Liverpool, he immediately got to work. He got to thinking how this happened, and how he could prevent it from happening again. 

“Failure is something that we have to deal with every single day, whether you’re an athlete or just a normal person,” Moldauer said. “For me, instead of getting emotional, I took a step back and really wanted to analyze what I did last year to not make it on the team. Thankfully I was level headed enough to not get emotional, and really see my pattern in my training.” 

Moldauer also noticed his mindset wasn’t where it should have been. In the past he says he would get too comfortable, perhaps even take international opportunities for granted. This year he walks into each and every competition with a new mindset and appreciation for where he’s at. 

“This year I’ve been taking a different approach of, ‘This is what I get to do. This is what I want to do.’ Now every time I go out to compete, I remind myself that this is an opportunity that doesn’t happen a lot and I can’t just take advantage or get used to it,” Moldauer said. “This year I’ve kind of had the fire under my belt of making sure I keep my name in the picture; [showing] that I’m still relevant to the sport and that going into the Olympic year, I’m making statements of why I should be on this team.” 

Yul Moldauer – 5280 Gym

2023 has been a huge step in erasing that disappointment from his memory. With an All-Around win at the Winter Cup earlier this year and four gold medals from the Pan American Championships in his back pocket, including the All-Around and team title, Moldauer continues to make a statement about what he can bring to Team USA. 

But as nice as those gold medals may be, Moldauer knows work still needs to be done. 

“Overall I think we went out there and did our job, but I think if China and Japan and Russia were there we wouldn’t have been too pleased with how we did,” Moldauer said. 

Getting back on the medal podium as a team at the World Championships is the biggest goal. Any member of the U.S. men’s National Team would tell you that. How they can make it happen remains the biggest question. 

Adding difficulty to stay competitive has been a key focus for Moldauer personally in the lead up to Paris, but with 13 months to go until the Games, Moldauer likes where he’s at. 

“If you look at my start scores, I’m over or just right there with everyone right now,” Moldauer said. “Classics is coming up … I’m going to be going for some big routines on high bar. I’m going to be adding the double double layout on floor. After that, it’s kind of just a couple tenths here [and there.] … I can strongly say that I look at some of the start scores of some of the guys on the National Team and if anyone says I have lower start scores, they need to be looking at someone else too.” 

As a unit, Moldauer likes what he sees from his Team USA teammates in terms of difficulty as well. So what’s missing? After analyzing successful teams of past generations, Moldauer feels better communication and better team chemistry is what the team needs. 

“We have the difficulty and we definitely have the skill, and now I think we’re just lacking that little personality, culture puzzle piece that we’re building now,” Moldauer said. “I can strongly say that these last few National Team camps and these competitions, it’s really starting to show who we are as a team and what we can do if we act as one … I trust every gymnast out there to do their work and skills but at the end of the day, we need to buy in together to have the same goals and do the same thing.” 

With a bit more structure at National Team camps, this year, Moldauer said, the team is finally starting to feel like an NCAA team. A team that has the same goals, same expectations, and of course, spends time together. 

“I’m not saying our culture is bad at all. It’s really good, we’re all best friends,” Moldauer said. “But I think we’re missing that team dynamic. When you’re in college you train together, you do the same things, and that’s how you build your trust going into a competition … As a team now we chalk the p bars. It doesn’t matter what kind of grip – you figure that out as a team now. Outside of the gym we’re always hanging out, going to eat together. When we’re at National Team camps we’ll either go to Top Golf or go golf carting – so we can really see each other outside of the gym.” 

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Having that team connection and NCAA vibe is what helps Moldauer thrive. Fortunately, in addition to competing for Team USA, Moldauer has found that feeling competing in the Bundesliga, which has also given him the opportunity to gain more competitive experience abroad. 

“It’s a good thing to get your face in front of different judges,” Moldauer said. “When I was in the French Bundesliga I think I scored a 87 in the All-Around and I would never do that in the U.S.! Honestly, ever since I’ve been to the Bundesliga my international scores have been growing too. I think it’s a really good commercial for gymnasts to get out there and experience not just competing gymnastics, but making relationships with other gymnasts; going out and seeing different cultures in each country and really getting a different side to the love of gymnastics. Every Bundesliga competition I go to feels like I’m at an NCAA Finals! The crowds are packed, the spirits are high, it’s a really cool, different love you get to see for the sport and it makes you want to try to bring that love here to the United States. And you get paid, which is always awesome!” 

Moldauer and the U.S. Men’s National Team leave for a training camp in Paris on June 2, which will take place in two different locations. The first camp will take place in Arques, the pre-Olympic camp venue, for the team to get a feel for what the venue, transportation, hotel, food, etc will be like in 2024. The second camp in Antibes will have a more relaxed vibe to give the team some relaxation and recovery time in France before the push for Paris. It will be the first camp that isn’t a selection camp for the U.S. men since before the pandemic. 

“I’m really grateful that USAG made this trip happen because I think it’s going to open the door to us training freely and motivating each other … [This is when] we’re going to get to see everybody’s full difficulty, just going into the gym and grinding together instead of having to go into the gym and worry about making a team.” 

And when all is said and done in 2023, Moldauer hopes to look back with pride, knowing he left it all out on the floor with his team in Antwerp. 

“I definitely want to make the World team,” Moldauer said. “I want to come home with a team medal, or individual medal, or both. … The main focus is to really make sure that Team USA makes a statement at Worlds saying, ‘We’re here. We’re ready. We’re going to come after it for the Olympic Games.’” 

Photo credits: Lloyd Smith for Inside Gymnastics

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