Seventh all-around at the 2009 World Championships, Tim McNeill of the U.S. told IG that his medal-winning performance at the recent World Cup meet in Moscow has given him confidence for the upcoming U.S. Championships and world championships.
Tim McNeill (U.S.) waves during the all-around final at the 2009 Worlds, where he placed seventh.
McNeill, who turned 24 on May 5, won the bronze medal on parallel bars and tied for fourth place on pommel horse at Stars of the World, a World Cup meet held May 14-16 in Moscow.
A native of Falls Church, Va., McNeill trained at Capital Gymnastics before attending the University of California at Berkeley. With five individual NCAA titles, McNeill is the most decorated male gymnast in Cal history.
Now coached by Vitaly Marinitch at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, McNeill is aiming for more success at the world championships that will take place Oct. 16-24 in Rotterdam. McNeill placed seventh all-around and fifth on pommel horse at the 2009 Worlds in London.
McNeill wants to next prove himself, however, at the Visa (U.S.) Championships that will take place Aug. 11-14 in Hartford.
“My main goal is to win the all-around,” said McNeill, who finished second all-around and first on parallel bars at the 2009 U.S. Championships.
In this IG Online interview, McNeill reflects on Moscow and assesses his progress as he trains toward the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
IG: In what ways did your performances in Moscow, not only the medal-winning one, prepare you for the upcoming U.S. Championships and world championships?
TM: The World Cup in Moscow was an incredible experience. It was a great opportunity to assess where my gymnastics is and how I stack up against competitors from around the world. At first, I admit, I was a little nervous, because I haven't competed since the world championships, which was more than seven months ago. But as soon as I got there, it was like my mind and body went into autopilot. It was as if I hadn't taken any time off competing whatsoever. Without a doubt, this competition has given me a huge confidence boost for the upcoming meets this summer.
IG: Since last fall's world championships, how do you feel you have changed as a gymnast - skill-wise, confidence-wise, or perhaps with a different approach to the sport?
TM: World championships completely changed me and my gymnastics. It was almost like a wake-up call, telling me that I can compete with the best in the world. I've always known that I had the potential to be competitive in the all-around, but believing in your potential and actually proving yourself with results creates a completely different mindset. I have a lot more confidence now and I feel like a new gymnast. Before I would walk into meets knowing that I could do well. But now I feel like every meet I compete in from here on out, I'll walk into it with the attitude that I know I'm going to do well.
IG: Midway through the Olympic cycle, where do you see yourself in terms of reaching your peak for 2012?
TM: I think I'm on a great track. The routines I competed last year have gotten pretty easy for me. So it is definitely time to make upgrades on most, if not every, event. I plan on competing a lot of these new upgrades at this year's Visa (U.S.) Championships. By Winter Cup (U.S. men’s ranking meet in February) next year, I plan on doing the routines I want to compete in 2012. That way, by the time the Olympics come around, I'll have had plenty of time to polish and become completely comfortable with my routines.
IG: In Moscow you were up against many gymnasts whom you'll face in Rotterdam and future meets. Looking at the performances on the medalists on pommel horse, what do you think you will need to challenge for a medal in Rotterdam, as you did in London last year?
TM: I know exactly what I need to do. Plain and simple, I need to clean up. I just have too much piking and little leg splits. The routine I did in Moscow is fairly new for me, and I think I just haven't quite had the time to perfect it yet. It should look a lot better by the time worlds get here, which I think will put me in contention to win a medal.
IG: What does your bronze medal on parallel bars in Moscow indicate of this event perhaps being your strongest, or one of your strongest?
TM: I've always said that pommel horse is my best event, but when looking at meet results, I think I've been just as successful on parallel bars. They both are good events for me, and starting out at the senior level, every time I made the U.S. national team, it’s been mainly because of those two events. I think in the end, however, pommel horse will be the most important event for me, because it has traditionally been a weaker event for the U.S. and it is where I'll be able to contribute the most to a team score.
IG: What are your expectations for the U.S. Championships, in the all-around and individual events?
TM: My main goal is to win the all-around. I think that, with my Start Value upgrades and my new-found confidence, I have a real chance of doing so. Of course there are lots of incredible all-around competitors and it certainly will not be an easy task.
But I want to go into the meet and hit all of my routines and make it hard for the other athletes to beat me. If I hit all my routines and don't end up winning, then I won't be upset; after all, the only thing I can control is my own gymnastics. It would just mean that I'd get back in the gym and have to work that much harder.