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We asked John Roethlisberger about some of his favorite memories from the U.S. National Championships!

1990 Called…

I always loved my summer training leading up to Championships. There were usually a handful of guys who wanted to pursue the Elite path and the national team at the University of Minnesota where I trained. The summers were hot and humid and our third floor gym didn’t have air conditioning, but I loved it! We toiled twice a day for most of the summer in the pursuit of being the best at something. It was hard work, but it was also fun. I was in the gym with a couple coaches and some of my best friends, enjoying the ups and downs of training.  

My first Championships as a senior wasn’t a great one. I broke my finger with two events left but managed to finish the meet in 9th place. However, that motivated me for what was one of the most memorable USA Championships of my career. It was 1990 (I know, none of you were born), and I had just come off of my freshman year at Minnesota where we won the Big Ten Championships and finished second at the NCAA Championships. Individually, I was having the best year of my career.  

The Minnesota contingent had a good group competing at USA Championships, many of which would be National Team members. I wasn’t considered a popular favorite to win the meet, which was fine with me. I was always one to ignore my competitors at meets and stay within my own little world. This was back in the day when we had compulsories and optional routines. Day one was compulsories. It went well. I was leading the competition. (I can’t recall if I was surprised by that or not). 

For the optional day, I started on rings. I loved starting on rings. It was a stable event that you just kind of needed to hang on, and it was difficult to fall. I started well, and that just got the ball rolling. As the meet progressed, I didn’t pay attention to the standings but sensed I was in position to win as I got to my final event, pommel horse. Was I nervous? Heck yea! But not as nervous as I probably should’ve been given what was at stake. If I hit, I would win my first national championship. If I fell, it would be an opportunity that slipped away.  

I hit! When I landed, I felt like I had done enough to win. When it was confirmed, and awards were presented, I recall my dad (who was also my coach) getting emotional (he didn’t do that often). My sister, who is an Olympian, came very close to winning the national title in 1985. My dad, who is also an Olympian, hadn’t won this meet during his time, either. I think seeing a Roethlisberger win this meet for the first time meant a lot to him. It certainly did to me. It’s a memory I have always cherished.  

With another U.S. Championships upon us and the Olympics only two years away, who will be some of the new faces that emerge? No one knows for sure. But one thing for sure is this is where future Olympians will begin to make their mark. So pay attention.

Photo Credit: ESPN

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Photo Galleries from the U.S. Classic 

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