Clipper Associate Editor
SYRACUSE — It’s a rare gymnast that gets a spot on the National Junior Olympic Team as a birthday present.
Syracuse teen Johnny Jacobson, who finished in the top 10 at the recent P&G Gymnastics Championships, got that exact news on his birthday this year. Though the team announcement is usually made at the event, Jacobson received a call at home from Kevin Mazeika, who coached the men’s gymnastics team at the 2012 London Olympics.
“We’re not really sure how I got on,” said Johnny Jacobson. “They said they had a couple of younger guys beat out some of the older team at the championships, and they chose the younger guys for the team.”
His favorite event is the high bar, where gymnasts perform routines that include several giants, the term used for skills where an athlete rotates 360 degrees around an axis while in a fully extended position. High bar routines also include several flips, releases and re-grasps, and in-bar elements that determine their complexity and overall points.
“I can do all six events, but that’s where I’d consider myself the best,” said Jacobson.
Though Jacobson won’t compete again until the end of the year, his work as a member of the team has already started. Last week he went to Colorado with other members of the team to train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. During the camp, they spent seven hours a day working on refining their skills and getting feedback from a variety of national coaches.
“You get to work with different athletes who are of the same ability or better,” said Jacobson. “It pushes you.”
Even at home, Jacobson normally trains 25-30 hours a week.
“It’s tough working on new skills,” he said. “But I’m working hard at the gym doing what the coach says to do.”
With two other national training camps on his schedule for the year, however, the process of juggling his school classes and gymnastics will become even more challenging.
“What’s hard is how much school he’ll be missing,” said Lynell Jacobson, his mother. “He’ll have to work with his teachers. They’ve all been really supportive and helped him out.”
Jacobson will have to continue maintaining that balance if he wants to stay on the team. If he keeps his spot, Jacobson said he’ll spend the next few years focusing on the P&G Championships, which are held every August. After that, he hopes to secure a spot on the 2016 Men’s Olympic Team.
“It’s exciting,” said Lynell Jacobson. “This is a dream come true for him.”