Senior Wes Haagensen
Jan. 28, 2008
In the second edition of the Illini Weekly Q & A, senior 2007 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year Wes Haagensen closes out his ideas and thoughts on his Olympic Road to Beijing and opens up about the true Illini family at Illinois.
Last time you talked about your Olympic dreams, what have you been doing on a personal level to prepare yourself?
"I've finally grown up and am willing to make every sacrifice possible that will increase my chances and help me get where I want to be. I'm currently in the process of setting up a special nutrition plan that should help me to stay healthy and have the energy to be able to do all things that I am capable of doing during competition. As much as I love to have fun and socialize with my friends, if this is going to affect my training and my ultimate goal, then that will be sacrificed. I know that my real friends will understand what I need to do."
Have you adjusted your training techniques at all?
"I have, along with the help of my coaches, developed world-class routines that are very realistic. We've put together a repertoire of skills that will allow me to compete alongside of all the other major USA athletes who are in consideration. I know my capabilities, and now I finally believe I can accomplish what I am setting out to do."
Do you have any fears or doubts?
"I've been fighting this belief of becoming an Olympic athlete for awhile because of the fear of disappointment. But I realized, disappointment comes and goes with life, but regret will last forever. I've lived a quarter of my life and I want nothing more than to have live three-quarters of my life and look back remembering how I gave it everything I had. So now, it's time to make it a reality."
Obviously the guys on the team are a great support system for you. Who else would you give credit to?
"The confidence I have is driven from a lot of support from various people. My grandparents, who raised me my whole life, have always believed in me since day one. They are always telling everyone how I will be an Olympian. My coach Jason Pearson, who coached me from age seven until I came here, frequently calls me to tell me to keep looking forward and not give up because I have the talent to be great. Even my roommate and former teammate Zach Goren always tells his classmates and me how I'm going to be an Olympian. Now, with all of that, I too finally believe this could be reality."
What do your teammates think about your Olympic aspirations?
"I haven't talked about my Olympic dreams much to my coaches and teammates because I thought until recently, but now as they learn my aspirations, I know they will support me and believe in me just like everyone else. My teammates and coaching staff are my family and I know they will help me accomplish my dream."
What is the Illini gymnastics family like?
"I am so fortunate to be at the University of Illinois for several reasons. There's not another gymnastics team in the country that believes and trusts in each other as much as we do. Also, our coaching staff is very well experienced as Yoshi Hayasaki, our head coach, coached Charles Lakes to become an Olympian. Jon Valdez, our assistant coach, who has mentored me from my first day of college, has coached in international and world caliber events. Then you can't forget that he coaches the best athlete in this country, Justin Spring, who is certain to become an Olympian in 2008. Justin also is one of our assistant coaches."
What's it like having such a prestigious athlete in the gym with you every day?
"Training with Justin is such an edge for me and I would be a fool for not taking advantage of this situation. He is without a doubt, the most talented gymnast I've ever seen."
So, you have shared your dreams and aspirations with Illini fans and the public. Do you have any words of wisdom to give out to anyone reading?
"Everyone in life needs to have a passion. It should be something they love, something that takes time away in their day. Some people search for this passion for their entire lives and never find it. That is why I thank the Lord that I was fortunate to find my passion at such a young age. Hopefully, in less than one year from now, I plan to make my biggest dream a reality."