IG Online chats with Irish world team member Rohan Sebastian, who had a standout freshman year in 2010 for the University of Michigan. Pictured: U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Sebastian outside the White House during a celebration for the 2010 NCAA champion teams.
IG Online continues its annual St. Patrick's Day tradition of celebrating Irish gymnastics. This year, IG Online catches up with Irish-American gymnast Rohan Sebastian, who had a standout freshman year for Michigan in 2010 and is hoping his luck will continue in 2011.
Born in Ireland to Indian parents, Sebastian grew up in Oklahoma City, training at Dynamo Gymnastics with coach Binh Le and at Bart Conner Gymnastics with Ivan Ivankov. He joined the Irish national team in 2007, placing 14th all-around at the 2008 Junior European Championships and fifth all-around at the 2008 Northern European Championships.
Now a pre-med sophomore, he trains with Michigan coaches Kurt Golder, Xiao Yuan and Geoff Corrigan. He competed for Ireland at the 2009 Worlds in London, but decided to skip the 2010 Worlds in Rotterdam in order to prepare for this year.
At the 2010 NCAA Championships in New York, Sebastian contributed on floor exercise, still rings and vault to help Michigan take a surprise team victory. In September, he and his Michigan teammates traveled to the White House for a celebration honoring all the past year's NCAA champion teams. The visit led to a memorable photo opportunity that saw Sebastian shaking hands with U.S. President Barack Obama.
IG Online caught up with Sebastian, who turned 20 on Monday, on his upcoming plans for collegiate and international competition.
IG: How is training going right now?
RS: Training is going very well. The main goal at the moment because of the current time in the collegiate season is becoming consistent on the events that help the team and staying healthy. I injured my wrist quite seriously at our first collegiate competition of the year in Chicago, the Windy City Invitational, and was forced to immobilize and sit out of competition for the following couple of weeks. For the last month I have been back and just been limited on pommel horse, one of my stronger events which I won't be competing this year. The wrist is feeling much better and I have competed five events for the team these last few competitions.
Irish team member Rohan Sebastian on rings for the University of Michigan
IG: When is your next trip to Ireland?
RS: As of right now, I'm not sure when my next visit to Ireland is. Due to competition conflicts with Big 10 Championships and NCAA Championships, I am unable to attend the 2011 European Championships in Berlin which is unfortunate, because last year's Icelandic volcano issues caused me to miss Europeans following the NCAA Championships. I am hoping to find a competition in Europe over the summer and train with the Irish team for a week or two after.
IG: What led to your decision to skip the 2010 Worlds in Rotterdam?
RS: It was a tough decision to not compete at 2010 Worlds, but I decided that in order to really do well in future competition, it was necessary for me to upgrade and increase difficultly on my two weaker events. Due to the demands of the NCAA season and the conflict with the international schedule, I have been unable to work difficulty for a long period while having a consistent coach for the last couple of years. The first opportunity to really add the needed difficulty was this past summer, and going to worlds would have forced me to get into routine shape early again and revert back to past routines which I did not want to do. I also took a larger load in school being pre-med, so I could take a little less in my next few years. Ultimately, it was a smart decision in the long run for my career both collegiate wise and internationally.
IG: What are your goals for 2011 Worlds?
RS: My goals for 2011 Worlds are to do well on my stronger events, but mainly to score better on my weaker events now that I have a little more difficulty, but regardless to have much better execution on everything I do. This will lead to a much better all-around score which is my best chance of qualifying to the 2012 Olympics, my ultimate goal. At 2011 Worlds specifically, maybe some individual success on floor and doing whatever I can to help Ireland in the rankings.
IG: You had a very memorable freshman year at Michigan. What was that like?
RS: My freshman year in college was fantastic. Michigan is a fantastic school academically and the tradition and history is incredible. Joining that with the fantastic facilities and great coaching, it had everything I was looking for. Even though I'm not a fan of cold weather, I was pleasantly surprised as I was expecting worse (and have seen worse given the extremes in Oklahoma). The NCAA experience was a blast competing with 20 other guys who are practically my brothers and winning a national championship — can't ask for much more competing on three events as a freshman and contributing to the title.
The White House experience was just icing on the cake as our team traveled to our nation's capital to have a banquet in front of the White House and end with a speech by our president and shaking his hand — I was able to twice!. Being honored both in Michigan upon returning and at the White House was incredible. Standing next to a group of guys and knowing that we all worked very hard day in day out to achieve greatness, motivates me very much to do again this year and every other chance I get!
IG: Any plans for St. Patrick's Day on Thursday?
RS: Definitely wear some of my Irish gear around campus and rep Ireland gymnastics! Then maybe go out and eat with a couple of my teammates and celebrate after workout that night.