Q&A: Tim Michaels, co-president and unofficial coach of the University of Tennessee Gymnastics Club

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As co-president and unofficial coach of the University of Tennessee Gymnastics Club, Tim Michaels is a lead organizer of the Orange and White Invite, the club’s competition held Saturday, March 10, at 2 p.m.

How long have you been doing gymnastics?

Since I was six. But most of our club members just started in college.

Isn’t it risky to start on that equipment at college age?

You have to be a daredevil at any age, but it’s a little easier when you’re young, because it’s easier for coaches to spot you.

Do you hold these competitions often?

This is the first time we’ve hosted our own meet. It’s our turn to contract to rent out the gym, invite every club we can think of, and contract with the university for accident insurance. And we’ll be competing ourselves. We’ll be easy to see in our pumpkin suits—orange jerseys with black pants.

Who will come the farthest to compete?

Ohio State is coming from Columbus, that’s about five-and-a-half hours.

Are the clubs made up of all college students?

It’s generally college students. The NAIGC, the organization we compete under, allows alumni to compete, and alumni is a very loose term—just ever enrolled in the college. We’ll have a few of those. The oldest will probably be 25 or so, which is considered old for a gymnast.

Who will judge? And are they tough?

Judges from the state association have graciously agreed to help us out. Some are sort of harsh usually, but since this is a collegiate club meet, they won’t be. They’re sort of required to have a sense of humor.

What are the toughest maneuvers someone might attempt?

A couple people may be doing a Yamawake, which is actually two different skills: one’s a release from a high bar and the other is like a double flip while you hold on to the ring. And an Olympian from the Mexican team will be doing an exhibition at the end of the competition that includes many tough skills.

What’s your favorite event?

The rings. And my least favorite is the pommel horse, just like everyone else. Usually each gymnast does all the events, but I’m not doing floor and vault, because I have a knee that’s broken.

Does anyone use cool or unusual music?

Guys don’t have music. One girl uses Mindless Self Indulgence, a screaming metal band, for her music. She’s the president of the women’s club at UT, Kasey Jackson, but she’s not competing, because she’s broke a bone in her back.

You want people to come watch?

That’d be great. Seating will be limited.

Is it like golf, where you have to be real quiet?

No, no, no. Just like any other college sporting event, it will be loud and rambunctious. Having more spectators is exciting for the gymnasts—it definitely pumps you up.

Do you have any groupies who will be there?

No, not exactly, it’s not that big.

The competition is open to the public, admission free, and events start around 2:30 p.m. at Premier Athletics North (906 Callahan Drive)

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