Senior Jon Drollinger
Feb. 18, 2008
Throughout the 2008 season, Illinois gymnasts will walk Illini fans through the entire season, giving in depth looks into the team and the season, while also giving gymnastics enthusiasts a closer look into the six different events that make up a gymnastics meet. Overall, the Illini, who have finished in the top five at NCAA Championships the last five straight years, hope to give Orange and Blue fans an exciting ride through the 2008 season as they vie for the programs 10th national title this season.
In the fifth edition of the Illini Weekly Q & A, senior Jon Drollinger talks about competing on rings and provides some interesting facts about himself.
Your career here at Illinois has focused on your specialty on rings. Can you talk about the strengths of being able to focus solely on one event?
"It definitely was one of my strongest events coming in, and I like being able to put all of my energy and time into one event. It helps and makes it easier for me to keep track of my goals and progress. I think being able to do rings alone has made my routines better, if I was doing four or five events, I don't think that I would have as much focus on rings. Injuries and such have limited me to rings, which I find it both a blessing and a curse sometimes."
What do you like most about rings?
"Rings is a very consistent event, unlike pommel horse where you can have a lot of minor things go wrong. I think the thing that I like most about rings is that you can get as pumped up before your set, and that helps you no matter what. Whereas on pommel horse if you get too excited that will throw you off in your swing and mess you up. For me, I think that that's the most important part is that I don't really have to control my emotions as much as some of the other guys, when they get up on parallel bars or pommel horse, I just kind of let everything happen."
What do you like most about being part of the Illinois men's gymnastics team?
"I would probably say the thing that everyone else has said, the camaraderie on our team. Knowing a lot of the other teams around the country and knowing people on those teams, I think our team is more connected and I really enjoy that about our guys."
You mentioned the camaraderie of the team, what is so unique about this group of guys?
"Just the fact that if you need anything from anybody, you can call anybody up and they will do whatever they can to help you out. That's just the mindset of everyone on the team. I also see it in the alumni that have been on the team, and really with anyone affiliated with this program. Everybody tries to hang out with each other as much as they can and there's just that connection."
What are your plans after you are done here at Illinois?
"Eventually, I would like to get into federal law enforcement. Right now it looks like I might end up in the Madison police department first. I'm pretty far in the application process right now. Something else that's pretty exciting is that I'm getting married in June."
What's an interesting fact about you that not many people know about you?
"Well, everyone on the team knows, but after my junior year of high school I broke my neck. It was tough to overcome. I had to take a year off and that was hard on me. What actually happened was I fell on high bar and went to the emergency room. The hospital didn't take the right x-rays and I actually worked out for about two months afterwards with a broken neck. I ended up going back to the doctor and he checked me out and realized that I had a dislocated neck. I was shocked because I didn't know what was going on, I didn't expect it to be anything that serious. About a month after that I had surgery. I had to have four of the top neurosurgeons in the country clear me before I could compete here. That's part of the reason that I've had to stop competing in some of the other events. My freshman year I did floor and vault, along with rings, but doing floor and vault puts a lot of pressure on my spine, so I had to stop that. It's been interesting. It's scary to think about because it has happened, but I think that I have just a good of chance as hurting myself as anyone else."
What do you think that it says about yourself that you were able to overcome your neck injury and keep competing in gymnastics?
"If anybody else on this team was in the same position, I think that they would have made the same choice. My doctor reassured me that I would be able to come back and do this. I kept telling everyone that I was not ready to be done; I still had a lot of stuff that I wanted to do. I had a lot of support from my parents. They didn't really want me to come back, but they supported me because they knew that it was something that I love to do. I'm determined and that's how I've always been."