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Gophers’ Shane Wiskus misses Olympic team, but will remember home games forever

Gophers’ Shane Wiskus misses Olympic team, but will remember home games forever

A few years after the University of Minnesota eliminated men’s gymnastics, former Gophers star Shane Wiskus landed well on his vault, turned to a far corner of a Minneapolis arena and heard his teammates singing “The Rouser.” and spell the name of the state.

A group of gymnasts hanging out in Dinkytown sat in Section 114 of Target Center during the USA Gymnastics Men’s Olympic Gymnastics Trials on Saturday, wearing “I’m with Wiskus” T-shirts.

A man without a team?

Hardly.

A man without an Olympic spot?

Oddly enough, yes.

Wiskus, a Minnesota native and 2021 Olympian in Tokyo, had about two dozen former Gophers gymnasts supporting him during the Olympic trials on Saturday. He achieved the third best overall score of the two-day competition. He was not named in the five-man Olympic team, although he will travel to Paris as an alternate.

The question arises: Ski-U-Huh?

The trials on Saturday were more exciting than logical. Actual overall performance is only part of the formula for choosing the Olympic team, along with, it seems, a Ouija board, advanced calculus and some form of astrology.

Wiskus, 25, performed passionately and thrilled the audience during each of his routines. He performed well, finishing in the overall standings behind budding superstar Frederick Richard and longtime American star Brody Malone.

Why didn’t he make the team?

Brett McClure, the high-performance director for Team USA, explained, “We looked at the all-around scores from all four days. … We looked at the potential for individual medals, the strengths and weaknesses of the current team, where we might need help.”

For example, vaulting horse specialist Stephen Nedoroscik made the team and Wiskus did not, a move that seems as unfair, horrible as it is logical. Nedoroscik theoretically has a better chance of winning a medal in Paris in his one event than Wiskus in any event, which could lead to a higher overall team score.

“It’s tough,” Wiskus said in a back hallway of the Target Center. “They haven’t given us even a second to process anything.”

How did that make him feel? “Numb,” he said. “I had the best two days of competition of my life, so … I feel like I earned it.”

His consolation prize was a rare occurrence: he received standing ovations in his home state.

“I’ll remember that forever,” he said. “I will remember this experience forever. Probably my last gymnastics competition of my life. So what better way to end than at home and with two of the best competitions of my entire life.”

Has he heard ‘The Rouser’? ‘I have,’ he said.

Did he hear the slow and then accelerating clap as he ran toward his jump?

“That’s something we used to do in Minnesota,” he said. “Clap slowly and then speed up as you run down to do your jump.”

The best moment of his week? “Taking the plunge,” he said.

Former Gophers gymnasts Andre Berry (class of 2010) and Timmy Kutyla (class of 2020) were in a group of friends who were in Section 114.

“This is a once in a lifetime experience,” Berry said. “And he’s killing it.”

“He is performing to the best of his ability,” Kutyla said. “So if it’s not in his hands, he’s done his best.”

“This is about family,” Berry said. “The Gopher family.”

“There are guys here who graduated in 2021 and 2022,” Kutyla said.

“Until John Roethlisberger,” Berry said.

Roethlisberger, a former Gophers star and three-time Olympian, worked at the Target Center as an analyst for NBC and reminded us that the University of Minnesota administration shut down a program that could make history.

Wiskus may be writing the final chapter. The disappointment he expressed is justified, but he will be remembered as an Olympian who shone in the greatest gymnastics event ever held in Minnesota.

“Having my team here means the world to me,” he said. “I had a lot of family and a lot of friends. I hope I made them proud. It was a great ride.”