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Nakamori Ready to Show More in Hartford
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Barely a year after tearing his ACL, Sho Nakamori is returning to the U.S. gymnastics championships with a repaired knee and a new coach, but with the same lifelong Olympic dream.


Nakamori helped Stanford University win the NCAA team title in 2009.

While he's not yet 100 percent, Nakamori said he is anxious to "feel what it's like to be out on the floor again" as he trains toward the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics.

"I've talked about this with my coach," he told IG of his goals in Hartford. "My first and foremost goal is to get out there and compete again. At the end of this week, getting back onto the national team again and having the opportunity to represent the U.S. team again would be great."

Nakamori, third all-around at the 2007 U.S. championships, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in July 2009. Doctors released the 24 year old several months ago to begin training on all events, and he said he plans to compete the all-around at the Visa Championships that begin Wednesday in Hartford, Conn.

The 24-year-old Nakamori now trains under Chinese-born Zhang Jinjing, a 1996 Olympian and the 1997 world champion on parallel bars, at Champions Academy in Morgan Hill, Calif.

"Training has been going very well but there are days when the knee gets a little more sore than usual," said Nakamori, who was fifth on parallel bars at the 2008 World Cup in Maribor. "I've been told that this is normal though. I might rate it around 90 percent but I'm definitely inching my way to full health. Some of my routines at this meet will be watered down. We wanted to be smart about the recovery process but not let go of the opportunity to compete again."

A few months after helping Stanford win the 2009 NCAA team title, Nakamori was performing a double-twisting Yurchenko vault at the Japan Cup in Tokyo when he tore his ACL.

The injured ACL was by far not the biggest setback Nakamori has faced. His father and first coach, Kazuki Nakamori, died unexpectedly in 2004 from an infection. Kazuki, a native of Shizuoka, was a member of Japan's national team from 1982-1984.

After surgery to repair his knee, Nakamori immediately began rehabilitation. He returned to Tokyo for several months in fall 2009 to study at Juntendo University in Tokyo, where he continued training alongside some of Japan's top gymnasts.

Since graduating from Stanford with dual degrees in international business and Japanese, Nakamori now finds himself on his own. He funds his own training and medical costs by coaching at Champions and working for computer start-ups in Palo Alto. His commute to Morgan Hill is 45 minutes to an hour each way, so on Friday nights he stays with Zhang's family to avoid the drive on Saturday morning.

At the 2007 U.S. championships in nearby San Jose, Nakamori surged to the all-around bronze. A year later he finished ninth at the U.S. Championships in Houston, missing the cut for the U.S. Olympic Trials but making the U.S. national team. Getting back onto the team in Hartford would make him eligible for funds to help his training.

After his disappointment in 2008, Nakamori is focused firmly on the 2011 Worlds in Tokyo and the 2012 Olympics in London.

"Making the 2011 Worlds is definitely a significant goal," said Nakamori, whose mother was also a gymnast in Japan. "It's where I trace back my roots to. It's where my mother and father grew up and where the rest of my relatives still live."

The 2012 Olympics will introduce the new team format with just five members per squad, instead of the six in previous years. Although that means there is one fewer spot available, Nakamori feels the format is beneficial to gymnasts able to do all events.

"I believe that this format favors all-arounders which is a great thing for me," he said. "I've always noticed that I'm pretty even across the board. There are several events where I feel like I would be able to contribute in the finals (three-up three-count format), but also be an integral part of the team during the preliminary round."

Another stroke of luck may be that the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials will be in San Jose, where he had his breakout performance in 2007, and just 25 miles from Champions Academy.

Now guided by a former world champion, Nakamori said it's too early to compare the Chinese training method with the Japanese coaching he grew up with.

"It's difficult to tell," he said. "I moved over to Jinjing's right around the time when I injured my knee. I know he's been playing it smart with my training and working around the condition of my knee. I believe I'll experience the real training style sooner than later as my knee is almost 100 percent."

A full comeback within his reach, Nakamori counts among his supporters his friends on the Japanese team.

"We've been close before from seeing each other in competitions but we got closer during my three-month international study program through Stanford," he said. "I spent a ton of time training with them and just plain hanging out."

Nakamori's friends and family around the world can keep follow his Olympic aspirations on his website, ShoNakamori.com, where he blogs about his recovery, travels and training. He said he continues to be grateful for the support he receives.

"I did want to thank all of the people around me for all the support that has helped me build back up to where I am now," he said.

External Link: ShoNakamori.com

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