July 9, 2008
In the summer edition of "Chalk Talk" we catch up with Former Illinois great and current assistant coach Justin Spring on his thoughts about making the U.S. Olympic team and heading to Beijing.
Q: How far back does your Olympic dream go back in your memory?
A: I guess it goes back to as early as I can remember because I've been doing gymnastics since I was three. Everyone's first question has always been, are you going to the Olympics. When your eight years old you have no idea, but the gradual process of making a junior national team and then a senior national team it becomes a reality.
Q: As the trials wore on were you confident you did the best you could?
A: I was definitely confident I did the best I could under the circumstances. I hadn't been tumbling and doing any floor for eight weeks. Once we got there it became apparent that I needed to do floor, so I did some tumbling on Tuesday and kind of threw up a floor set. I have no idea how I made it through, but we did two days in a row and all the other events went well. I pretty much put it all out there on the floor and was confident that I had made a case for myself. Its still a decision that the committee has to make and they went over 60 scenarios and luckily I was one of the six to make it.
Q: What is training going to be like before you head to Bejing?
A: Jon (Valdez) and I are actually going to go back and make a schedule in a couple of minutes. We leave for Beijing in a few weeks and we have an Olympic training session at the headquarters' in Colorado Springs, Co., so in the short term we are letting my mind and body come down a little bit. We will start doing a little bit of training and get my body feeling as good as possible for the final push.
Q: As a kid you probably didn't dream of Olympic team, but of Olympic gold. Is there some unfinished business here?
A: The whole initial part of making the Olympic team is still settling in. Having my eyes set on getting a gold will start immediately when I get back into the gym, which is shortly. You know it is good to take a brain vacation with all of this craziness and get unpacked and do some laundry. We will get life back on track and get ready for the games. I know once I step back into the gym its going to be about how can we perfect everything to be a medalist. Anything I can do to improve my gymnastics is going to help the team.
Q: What kind of positive effects can this have for the University and Illinois Athletics...
A: Well, I have had a ridiculous amount of support from the University, the DIA and everyone here in Champaign. I never expected to have people greet me as I got off the plane, which was very cool. The trials were on national television and the Olympics are hyped up, so it gives us some great exposure. Illinois has one of the few remaining dominant programs left in the NCAA. This is just going to draw more attention to the program.
I mean even at trials we had some alumni start an ILL chant. There was a packed crowd of 18,000 people and they all joined in even though most didn't go to Illinois. Its going to bring great attention to the program and help with recruiting, so I'm excited I could help in this way. Illinois gave me the opportunity, so it is the least I can do.
Q: Have you talked to Coach Hayasaki since you have been back?
A: Yeah, he was at the airport when we got back. It so funny to hear him say he always knew I was going to be on the team. I'm like that makes one of us because I didn't. I've been hearing that from so many people and I appreciate all of the support. There were quite a few times I didn't think it was going to happen. He has been very supportive and he is a great guy.