JOHN: I try to- everytime we do interviews or anything everyone’s on their best behavior and trying to you know just give off this great vibe like we’re all perfect, I’m in the gym and everything is going great. It’s not always like that. People should know about the struggles that we have you know? And the mental pressures and everything that goes with it.
[EXPRESS YOURSELF INTO MUSIC]
ALLISON TAYLOR: Hey gymnasts, Elite Sportz Band is a cutting edge compression back warmer that can protect your most valued asset: your back. I’m Allison Taylor on behalf of Elite Sportz Band. Visit elitesportzband.com. We’ve got your back.
JESSICA: This is episode 72 for January 24th, 2013. I’m Jessica from masters-gymnastics
BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner
UNCLE TIM: I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym
JESSICA: This is the number one gymnastics podcast in the world, bringing you the most fascinating people from around the gymternet. Today it is an all interview episode with ninja prodigy John Orozco. Remember that next week is the final week to submit your responses for the listener survey. Please help up make the show better for you and take five minutes to do the survey. We really really care about what you guys think and really want to make the show better for you. I want to give a special shout out this week to Hayley who recently suffered a concussion. Want you to get well soon. We recommend since concussions suck so bad that you should lay on the couch and watch Stick It 100 times. That is our special prescription for recovery from concussions. So feel better Hayley. If you guys like the interview with John Orozco please let him know. You guys know elites have precious little personal time and so for him to take a whole hour just to hang out with us and chat was just really gracious. So tweet at him, leave him a Facebook message. Just let him know if you like this interview. So now, in the words of Blythe Lawrence, prepare to fall in love with John Orozco. He is such a sweetheart and you’re going to want to make him yours by the end of this interview. Enjoy the show this week and thanks for listening.
BLYTHE: Today’s interview with 2012 US Olympian John Orozco is brought to you by Tumbl Trak which is hosting a huge post Christmas inventory reduction sale on its website this week. Deck out your gym with Jack and Jill mats, inclines, octagons, cheer floor, and much more. And while you’re there have a look at one cool gadget that recently caught my eye: the laser beam. Not a handheld laser, but a uniquely designed beam developed by master coach Leonard Isaacs. It isn’t just a piece of equipment, it’s a training concept. Visit www.tumbltrak.com to learn more. Tumbl Trak. Do it again.
BLYTHE: US Olympian John Orozco is only 21, but he’s already lived several lives as a gymnast. Three time junior national champion, Orozco’s talents were evident from childhood. And in 2012 he achieved two goals: becoming the US champion and representing his country at the London Olympic Games. As we get into 2014 and Rio moves closer, John is back in the gym and working hard to become even better after recovering from an ACL tear sustained during the post Olympic tour. In this frank and interesting interview, he talks about the Olympic highs and lows, what he’d like to change, and his big goals inside and outside of the gym.
UNCLE TIM: So John you’re going to be competing at the American Cup very soon, congratulations. Was that something that you-
UNCLE TIM: Hopefully?
JOHN: Did you say competing?
UNCLE TIM: At the American Cup, yeah?
JOHN: Oh yeah, I thought you said King of the American Cup
JOHN: I’ll be competing yeah. But yeah I will be competing.
UNCLE TIM: Ok and was that something that you expected to happen or was it kind of a surprise when they told you you’d be competing at the American Cup?
JOHN: I was hoping for it. I wasn’t expecting it, but I was hoping for it. So I’m glad that I got selected. Yeah. Because I already did the first two world cups so I was kind of hoping I’d get to do this one too.
UNCLE TIM: Great. Well we look forward to seeing you. And if we’re not mistaken you’re heading to China very soon. Why is that?
JOHN: We leave tomorrow to China for a training camp with the national team in China. So we [inaudible] China.
UNCLE TIM: Wow that’ll be terrific. So what do you hope to accomplish there? Maybe work on parallel bars skills or something with the Chinese since they’re fantastic at that?
JOHN: I’m hoping to get some tips especially on vault. It’s kind of funny because I’ve been trying to get back in shape and after Christmas break and everything. And it seems like I take a few steps forward on some events then two steps back and it switches the next day. But my vaults are looking a little better than usual so hopefully I can keep that going but you never know. Sometimes be like oh I did this great vault today and the next day be like where did it go. It vanished.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And can you tell us what’s going on with your vaults? What do you think is holding you back on vault?
JOHN: I think a lot to do with it is probably London because that just tanked on vault really bad. Pretty much choked. But I think a lot of it is from London and trying to get my confidence back and be sure of myself down that runway instead of thinking about oh crap I hope I land this. I should be thinking alright good technique good form stick. You know?
UNCLE TIM: Yeah
JOHN: But you know I have a few years but still trying to get through that. So yeah.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And at US Nationals you competed a kasumatsu vault but then at the world cups you went back to the handspring vault. Is there any reason for that?
JOHN: Yeah well it actually was a tsuk 1.5. I’m trying to learn kasumatsu right now because when I was younger I learned round off and my twisting two different ways. So now I’m having to go back to scratch on vault and learn relearn my round off the other way so I can do it correctly. But it’s pretty tough to do that. I didn’t have a lot of time from nationals to worlds or I mean nationals to the world cup events, so I just went back to my older vault that I know that I can usually just pull it out most of the time.
UNCLE TIM: Ok gotcha. And can you tell us about why you ended up moving to the US Olympic Training Center?
JOHN: Oh well I moved here three years ago because I wanted to really throw myself into gymnastics. And really commit myself. Because I felt like I wanted to go to college and I wanted to go to NCAA team but I thought it was going to be the best thing ever. But I really wanted to just give it all I got in gymnastics and not have any other distractions. And that’s the real reason why I went here. But I think it was a good decision for me because I was distracted and everything else was all about gymnastics here and that’s really what I wanted to focus on. Especially after tearing my achillies two years before the Games I was like alright I need as much time as possible to really focus on my gymnastics and not have any other distractions. So that was the real reason why I came here.
UNCLE TIM: And I mean this is the time to gym nerd out and I’m just curious should we expect to see any new skills in 2014?
JOHN: Maybe. It’ll be a surprise. So I can’t give it away yet. But hopefully yes you will see new skills.
UNCLE TIM: Can you tell us what you’re working on or is it a top secret situation?
JOHN: Some of it’s top secret. Let’s see. Pommels is a secret. Floor’s a secret. [LAUGHS] My vault I’m not sure about my vault yet because I don’t even know what I’m doing. Because my handspring double full’s getting a little better. I’m actually learning how to block now. We’ll see because pretty much every practice I’m doing yurchenkos, kas, double fronts, and I’m like going for all these different vaults which is [inaudible]. So vault’s kind of like a wildcard for me right now. We’ll see at Winter Cup what I’m going to do and American Cup and everything. Pbars isn’t going to change too much I don’t think. Rings, I’m hoping to get a little stronger on rings. We might be seeing a few more strength skills but not that many because I don’t want to kill myself on rings trying to get stronger. And then that’s about. Yeah. Just trying to refine everything.
UNCLE TIM: Alright. And obviously the yurchenko was the skill that you tore your achilles on. And if I recall correctly once you said you would never start doing yurchenkos again. What changed your mind about that?
JOHN: Pretty much my coach was like listen, you’ve got to get over it because my yurchenko vault is pretty good compared to my double full. My technique. But for me it’s really it’s mental. It’s really mental for my yurchenko vaults. Because you have to be so technically perfect to be on like really makes me mentally nervous. So that’s part of the reason why I’m kind of fearful when I’m doing my yurchenko vaults. But it’s just something I have to get over. But we’ll see. We’ll never know what kind of vault I’m going to do next, so yeah.
UNCLE TIM: Alright. And how does that feel? Does that make you nervous not knowing which vault you’re going to compete or which one you’re going to do next?
JOHN: A little bit. But not too worried about vault because it’s not like my individual strongest event. So I’m just hoping to get a good 5.6 vault to be consistent.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And is there any chance that you might bring back your full twisting double back off parallel bars?
JOHN: No. [LAUGHS] I mean I don’t know. Usually I stick my double pike and it’s really good. So I don’t want to you know have to be worrying about alright I have to get this full in to my feet after a whole routine of nine skills. And I don’t know. I’m really confident and comfortable with my double pike. But we’ll see you never know. My coach might think my routine’s too easy so I have to do it. But yeah.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And one event that’s really difficult for a little boys to learn is pommel horse. And you actually are one of the US gymnasts with a really good D score on pommel horse. So can you tell us what your secret is? How did you learn how to circle so well?
JOHN: Well [LAUGHS] I wouldn’t say my circle is perfect at all. Compared to the national guys. But I guess in the US my routine’s ok. I think most of it is just a lot of drills and a lot of shoulder stretching. And what I actually do, I go into support hold like a I go on the pommel horse, I go on one pommel, and I do a support hold with my hips up in the air maintaining that same position of the circle. And I just hold it for about 30 seconds and I try to push my hips up to the sky as much as I can. I used to do those drills a lot and just circles on the floor mushroom, on the one pommel. A lot of drills like that can really help. That’s pretty much all I would have to say. And the drills and also just doing a lot of pommel horse. Because we do a lot of pommel horse here at the OTC. I think for every routine that we do on other events, we do like at least two or three pommel horse routines.
UNCLE TIM: Wow
JOHN: I guess that would be my advice.
UNCLE TIM: Recently you did the Skating and Gymnastics Spectacular and it was on NBC. Yeah it was a lot of fun. You threw some really big throwback skills like the side somi on floor and then you also did the sideways roll on parallel bars like the 80 year old.
JOHN: Yeah I did rip that off from her. That was pretty cool so I really wanted to try that I was like alright I’m gonna go for it. Last minute thing that was pretty cool.
UNCLE TIM: Awesome. Was it hard to learn? Or was it just kind of easy?
JOHN: No I just kept looking at the technique that she used and I just kind of did it. It’s pretty easy for me. I’m pretty sure when I’m 80 I won’t be able to do that. So I give her props.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah. And you really seem to enjoy performing at these shows. So what’s the best and worst part about doing them?
JOHN: The only bad part about doing them is just missing time for training. But it actually wasn’t that bad because we were getting to the holiday season so it wasn’t like I was missing important training or anything. But a big part of it is just staying in shape and everything and being in the ice rink is a little strange because we’re cold and we have to do our routines and our muscles aren’t warm. But it’s really not that bad though. It’s still fun. And once you actually have an audience and you have routines and stuff to do, it’s more fun that rehearsing it and going through it and people missing steps and doing it when everyone’s kind of- that’s the only bad part. But a lot of it is just fun and good characters and everything like that. So I think it’s always, I always like to perform you know without the pressure of having to actually you know execute a great routine with good execution. Being able to do my gymnastics and have fun and get out there is amazing.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And how does the Skating and Gymnastics Spectacular compare to something like the tour? The post Olympic tour.
JOHN: It’s kind of the same but not really. I mean tour is a whole different animal. It’s just so much more grueling because we have three or four shows night after night. And you know you don’t get a lot of training time. And you have to jump back into it the next show. It’s a little tougher. But I think it’s still fun. Especially when you see the crowd’s reaction to all your performances and stuff. I think that part is fun. And the reason why I actually hurt myself is because I was actually going for my big skills like an idiot. Because the point of tour is you know perform and show off and everything. But it’s not like you have to do your big skills. You know? Before a lot of fans that aren’t really into gymnastics that much, it’s always post Olympic, so you get the audience that watched gymnastics maybe for the last year because of the Olympics and they don’t really know that much so it doesn’t take that much to really impress everyone. And I was the only one doing all my real skills because I was like alright I need to be in shape after this so I’m going to start getting ready now. Not a good idea. And that’s what I learned on tour. So. But yeah mostly just pure fun and enjoying the crowd and getting the support we get from the audience.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. Can you walk us through that night when you hurt yourself? You seemed pretty upset when it happened. I think that you posted on Facebook maybe something about no one really treating it as an important injury. Can you just kind of walk us through that night?
JOHN: Yeah. I got really angry. Because well I don’t want to talk bad about any of the helping staff that we had on tour or anything. But you know I hurt myself, I threw my double front half out dismount on pbars. It was actually really good. I stuck it actually and I was really high. But I just wasn’t tight on the landing. So yeah I heard a pop and I felt a pop. And I was like oh crap. Oh no. So I look down at my leg to see if it’s ok and I’m like well it looks intact. So it was during the performance, and I walked around a little bit and I was like oh my it feels really loose and achy and you know I was just like this is not right. So the lights went out and the number finished and I walked backstage and I was like I think I need a wheelchair. And one of the helping staff was like you do? I was like yeah I really hurt my knee. And everyone’s running around getting to the next number. I can’t run, I can’t do anything. I’m still standing on it and I’m like ok I really need a wheelchair and they’re like you’re fine you’re still walking. And I’m like get me a wheelchair! And finally they got me a wheelchair and they were evaluating me and they were like we’re not really sure what’s wrong. It looks ok. Maybe you might’ve dislocated it. And I’m like ok what does that mean. And they’re like in a few weeks you should be ok. And I’m like ok can I get an MRI? She’s like no you have to actually go to the next city, so maybe in a few days you can get an MRI. I’m like no I think I need an MRI like right now. She’s like we can get you an xray. No it’s not my bone I can feel my ligaments moving around, I need that MRI. I had to really fight for the MRI. It’s ridiculous. But I think that was just because I didn’t really act as if it was that bad. So it wasn’t they weren’t sure how bad it was because my reaction wasn’t over the top or anything. I was kind of like something’s wrong. But yeah I was just really angry because it was right after the Olympics and I was already kind of upset after the Olympics not accomplishing what I wanted to. And then it was the time to have fun and of course I go hurt myself. So that was why I was angry.
UNCLE TIM: Wow. So can you tell us about how the ACL recovery has been in comparison to your achilles recovery?
JOHN: Just getting back in shape and trying to get my knee back in shape a second time. Just going through that whole process a second time is the toughest thing I think for me because I was like I already did this do I have to do this again, this sucks. And you just kind of don’t want to accept it a second time around but you have to. So yeah I mean in comparison it was actually smoother than my achilles. But mentally it was a little tougher for me.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And have you ever talked to a doctor and asked you know why me? Why these two horrible injuries? Because I mean ACL and achilles are kind of the two worst injuries you can have in gymnastics. And so have you ever asked a doctor that?
JOHN: Yeah. I mean part of it is just my strength and also flexibility. But the ACL thing was just a fluke. You can’t stop that from happening. You can have a bad landing no matter how strong you are. But my achilles was the only issue was my ankles being really unflexible and of course the terrible landing. It’s always landings. Usually my landings are pretty good. But yeah most of it is just flukes and now [inaudible] prevention classes, like ACL prevention classes that have me doing aerobic motions and stuff and stabilizing my knee so there’s less of a chance of tearing it.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. Well we all wish you a very healthy 2014, and with that I’m going to hand you over to Blythe for some more questions.
BLYTHE: Alright so I’d like to go back to London for a second because we haven’t really talked about that yet. And I was there. And in the media with the press there. And I remember watching you do an interview, I think after team finals, in which somebody asked you what you felt you’d learned from this competition. And you just kind of stood there and shook your head and said I don’t know. And so you’ve had more than a year to think about it now. And I’d like to revisit the question. What did you learn from competing in the Olympic Games and being an Olympian?
JOHN: I haven’t really thought about that because I usually try to block out those negative memories. But the thing I learned from London I think one thing that I really learned from London was actually trying to get into my bubble and not really worrying about the audience or even other countries that are competing beside me.
BLYTHE: Do you worry about the audience when you’re competing? Because one thing we were talking about before you got on the phone here is gosh he’s just so cool. He looks like nothing fazes him. But is that what it’s really like or is that the projection you give off?
JOHN: It looks like that. But it isn’t half the time. I think most of the competitions that I went to before Olympics were easy for me to just block out everything you know? I’d been to Nationals a few times and I made it to World Championships. All this stuff. And I was used to it. And then because I never used to get off mentally in competitions no matter what happened. But I think going into the Olympic Games I wasn’t really prepared for the difference in prestige of the competition you know? It was just it’s just a whole different animal being at the Olympics. And I think mentally I just got really overwhelmed, especially in the media. Everything was kind of blown out and [inaudible] all this stuff. And all I [inaudible] the team, the US team, we were expected to win you know? And I think that really threw me off a little mentally because I was too worried about leading everybody else and doing well for my country and doing well for my family, teammates, doing my job, thinking about oh that wasn’t good enough for them I can do better on my next event, hit this event and everything will be fine.
BLYTHE: Yeah definitely in the run up to London there were a lot of stories that got written about you, about your rise in gymnastics, about your expectations for the Olympics. And also you were kind of branded like you said as this kid from the Bronx. In every broadcast that was your tagline, here’s John Orozco, the kid from the Bronx. Is being from the Bronx a source of pride for you? Or do you ever wish sometimes they would maybe get away from that a little bit? Do you ever think hey I’m more than just the kid from the Bronx?
JOHN: I mean I appreciate the support and everything I’ve gotten, so I wouldn’t want to change that. But sometimes I do kind of wish that no one knew who I was anymore so I have that pressure. But I can’t think like that. Now that I’ve been to the Olympics and even now that I’ve been to the Olympics and now that I’ve seen how kids can be so inspired by one person just making it, I think that’s helping me get through the next Olympics and that’s going to help me mentally kind of get back on the horse and keep going toward my goals.
BLYTHE: Do you get a lot of letters from kids who sort of say to you, I’m kind of like you. Either my family doesn’t have a whole lot of money to put towards athletics for me but I want to do gymnastics. Or I’m not like the prototypical gymnast and you’ve really inspired me. Do you have people reaching out to you and saying that?
JOHN: Yeah, I do get a lot of letters, a lot of Facebook messages, Twitter tweets at me about kids that are inspired by my story and me making the Olympics and everything and a lot of parents that write about their children and how I inspired them and their whole family. And a lot of it to me seems unbelievable because me personally, I think I did crap at the Olympics. You know, I didn’t prove anything. I choked and I just did terrible. But nobody sees it like that. I just personally see it like that. And I think that I have to focus on what everyone else sees which is that life isn’t perfect and it’s not going to be an easy road to success. I was talking actually to someone that I met last night. I went to this, it’s kind of like a Christian gathering, like a little group at this person’s house and he was telling me that, in a lot of ways, me falling at the Olympics was more inspiring than if I would have gotten gold because it shows that I’m human and I’m relatable you know. It just doesn’t happen that easily. There’s going to be tough times and it’s going to feel like the universe is against you. But it’s better than (inaudible.) See I think people seeing that me getting back up and still going for my goal one more time is more inspiring than doing it perfectly the first time. So I guess that would be the reason why I would keep going. A lot of times after the London Games, I was thinking to myself, I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m working so hard for what? For me to just fall under the pressure and choke? It’s not worth it. And I think about all the kids that I’m inspired by. Even if I don’t do great at the next Olympics, it’s still inspiring to see that I’m not giving up after one fall, after one bad Olympics.
BLYTHE: It’s maybe a useless question to ask but if you could go back in time and do the Olympics over again, would you change anything?
JOHN: I think before where I am now, I would say yes but now I don’t think so. Because like I said, the world seeing that it’s not super easy to just go to your first Olympics and just win like no problem, and seeing that I’m still going to go for it for a second time and maybe even a third time, I think that sends a strong message there than going to the Olympics and winning gold your first time just like nothing you know. That kind of shows oh well I can’t do that, he’s just like me. Seeing that I didn’t do as well as I wanted to and still going for a second one, I think that shows kids what dedication is really about. I think that can be really inspiring. So yeah I wouldn’t want to go back and change anything.
BLYTHE: During the Olympic run up, there were a lot of stories about your family. And I hope you don’t find this a rude question, but do you feel like, or did you feel like at times, you were putting too much pressure on yourself to support your family?
JOHN: I definitely had been putting too much pressure on myself because I want to be this perfect gymnast that never makes mistakes, that always wins. But reality is that it’s not that easy. That’s not how it is. But I still keep striving every day to become that. So even Uchimura, he’s had bad days before. Nobody’s going to be super perfect every competition and just win like no problem. There’s going to be days when it’s going to be tough and there’s going to be bad competitions and everything. But that doesn’t mean you should stop giving it your all even though you feel like sometimes it’s just worthless. Sometimes I just say that in my mind, like this is such BS. Why am I trying to do this? This is useless. I’m trying so hard and I don’t see the results panning out. But that’s when I just keep my head down and I keep working.
BLYTHE: Outside of gymnastics, what are some of the goals that you have for yourself?
JOHN: Actually becoming more confident when I compete, because I never used to have an issue with confidence. You know, even though I can still play it off pretty well, like I’m confident and everything, I’ve still been recently getting really nervous when I go to competitions. So I think the one thing that I’m going to start working on, especially this year, is building my confidence and getting my consistency back, kind of I guess, getting my mojo back. I don’t know how to describe it.
BLYTHE: Getting your mojo back is a nice way to describe it. When do you feel like you lost it?
JOHN: I definitely lost it at the Games. Yeah I think just going to the Olympic Games, the failure that I felt that I brought to myself and my team really knocked my confidence and just changed me as a person, negatively. So now I’m just trying to get out of that rut and just try to reintroduce myself to myself.
BLYTHE: Do you think that media pressure phased you or was it just all pressure that you were putting on yourself? And today, do you look at the media any differently?
JOHN: It was definitely a combination. I don’t look at the media any differently but I know that when I’m getting closer to a competition, I shouldn’t really be focusing on media or anything. A lot of times, I’ve been trying to, like at World Championships, I went on Facebook and I posted some pictures and said like hey I’m going to competition and everything. Usually I would look through the comments and stuff and see what people were saying and it wasn’t good for me. Especially, after the Olympics and stuff, all I see is Facebook comments like oh this kid sucks. He can’t get it together anymore and he’s a mental wreck. I get down on myself for that but then realizing wait, why am I even looking at this? I need to be focusing on my competition, not how people think I am as a gymnast. And that’s something I’ve learned too from London.
BLYTHE: On a bit of a lighter note, we have absolutely loved seeing these gorgeous modeling photos that you’ve been doing. And we were wondering what the story behind those was.
JOHN: I used to never really consider it modeling. I always thought of modeling as like down the runway and everything. I’m a little too short for that. It was really fun. I liked doing the photoshoots. It was really cool. I worked with Michael Thomas, who’s a really good photographer. He was amazing. He has such a good eye. It was really fun. I really like doing stuff like that. It was really long too. I thought it was just going to be like two hours. It turned into like seven hours or something crazy like that, like five hours. I was like jeez. I had a lot of fun. I wouldn’t mind doing more of it in the future. especially like athletic stuff like that.
BLYTHE: We ask every male gymnast who comes on the show this. We’re always on the lookout for ways to make men’s gymnastics more viewer friendly. We suggested sort of the usual things. Men should take their tops off and compete topless. There should be music added, maybe some dance element to floor routines, eliminating one or two choice events. And we just wanted to ask you also. What do you think needs to be done to make men’s gymnastics a little bit more crowd friendly to people who are maybe kind of like more fair weather fans?
JOHN: I don’t know. I mean I guess the only thing would be to build more gyms in different places. For instance, what I want to do in the future is one day, have a non profit organization in the Bronx geared toward gymnastics for young kids. And not just in the Bronx but in every kind of inner city places that don’t really have opportunity to experience gymnastics and because of financial issues or just availability issues, they’re not privy to a gym. They don’t have any interest because it’s not something that’s available to them. And not just in the Bronx, but a lot of areas in the country have like pretty much no idea what gymnastics is. So I think in the future, what I want to do is open up that gym in the Bronx and have kids come in for free and experience gymnastics and be able to train without worrying about the expense of gymnastics or worrying about traveling or any of those other issues that usually come with gymnastics. I want them to experience it and have fun and not have to worry about all the things that I had to worry about growing up in the Bronx trying to be a gymnast.
BLYTHE: We would be so thrilled if you would sing a little ditty for us just to kind of cap your interview. And Jess has a couple of listener questions that she wants to ask but we’d be delighted to hear you sing if you’re willing.
JOHN: Yeah. Well I got one. One of my favorite artists is John Legend. It’s called Save Room.
[sings Save Room by John Legend]
That’s about it. Yeah.
BLYTHE: That was amazing. Just amazing.
JOHN: Oh thank you. It was alright. I love to sing and one day, I think I want to be a singer, I want to be an artist but it’s just really tough. It’s a lot of time and everything and I’m still dedicated to gymnastics. I’ve been experiencing I guess and trying to kind of figure out the singer I want to be, you know. You could be pop, you could be R&B, anything so. I’ve been getting into more recently John Legend, a lot of his music so that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
BLYTHE: So Jess, I know that you have a few questions from our listeners. So I will throw it over to you. John I just want to say you have been wonderful to talk to. Thank you so much for taking all this time.
JOHN: Oh yeah no problem.
JESSICA: Okay questions from listeners. These are very serious, very serious questions. Okay the first one is will you be doing the Body Issue of ESPN Magazine?
JESSICA: No because you would never say yes or no because they haven’t asked you yet?
JOHN: Well they haven’t asked me yet. I don’t know. I think it’d be really cool but I’m just not ready for the world to see all of that yet. If you can imagine this, I’m not very comfortable with people seeing my body that much. I’m not comfortable with people seeing all of me exposed like that. So I’m not sure if I would do it quite yet, maybe sometime in the future but yeah I don’t know about that.
JESSICA: Okay, okay fair enough. Someday in the future, we will ask you the question again.
JOHN: Don’t they see enough in the tights and everything?
JESSICA: I know. Well that’s the thing. Alicia Sacramone was practically naked anyway so oh why not just do this. I never thought of it that way. But then you could think of it the reverse too. Like uh you already see everything. So I have to ask though. I have to give you a little background on this question. So we always talk about vault for you because we’re always like how can we fix this and what’s happening. As fans of course, we want to like help in the process and make everything perfect for you. So we’re always discussing this. In one of the recent episodes, I talked about, I wondered if you wore glasses because when I was a kid, I was terrified of vault and always had the wrong steps and always like falling into my coach and knocking him out when he was trying to spot me. It was a mess. And it turned out, like I totally needed glasses and I couldn’t see correctly. I couldn’t see the vault and I didn’t even realize you were supposed to actually see it perfectly, like clearly, and you were supposed to see where the vault was. So that is where this question came from. It came from a positive place of my personal experience. So the question is do you wear glasses or contacts?
JOHN: I’ve never worn glasses, not as a kid, not now. I’ve never had an issue seeing the equipment. It’s just always been my technique. There was some kind of mental block or something.
JESSICA: I can totally understand that.
JOHN: But I think a lot of the time, when you’re having trouble or mental block or anything, it’s good to go back, take a deep breath and get up and try to do drills again and try to think about what you used to do.
JESSICA: Yep, that was really good advice. Next question is when are you trying out for American Idol?
JOHN: Oh that’s a good question. I don’t know about American Idol. That’s too tough. They have a lot of good singers. Like I said, I’ve never had a professional training or anything. Like, I’ve never had any singing lessons. I wouldn’t be very confident going in there, like oh hey I’m an Olympic gymnast, I can do this too. No, I think I need to prepare for it.
JESSICA: But you can do everything else. You have like a black belt in Taekwondo, you can sing. I’m sure you have a bunch of other talents we just don’t know about too. I’m sure you could pick it up. They coach you. Go on The Voice. You have a coach. How about The Voice?
JOHN: That would be awesome. The Voice you said?
JESSICA: Yeah The Voice. The one with like Shakira and Christina Aguilera and all those guys.
JOHN: Funny you should mention something about that. I can’t say anything though. I will be, I guess venturing into that kind of world pretty soon hopefully. But nothing’s set in stone. But I think people should be prepared. I really can’t say anything .
JESSICA: Okay. Oh my God, I’m so excited now! Oh my God, people are going to be so excited! Okay, yay yay yay! Whatever it is, we’re thrilled. That’s always how these things are. Still exciting though. People will be excited you are going that way. Okay now this is the most important question of them all which is….we’ve asked other athletes this before. But they have not given us detailed enough answers. They were not sufficient so we need the real scoop from you. We all know that after Worlds and World Cups and everything and Olympics of course, there are after parties. Sometimes there’s the banquet that they have after the meet. If you were going to rank the top two post meet parties/banquets, which ones would they be? And why?
JOHN: Well I always think that the post competition banquets at world championships and pretty much any big international world cup competition, I think the banquets are awesome because we get to be in an atmosphere where we’re not competing against each other. We’re just kind of having fun. We’re not even in the gym. So I think that’s the best part of it. We’re not in the gym. We’re not trying to show off or do anything. We’re just having fun mingling and actually getting to know our competitors and I think that’s one of the best parts about it. And I would say probably World Championships and pretty much any world cup event post banquet is pretty amazing. And we get to talk to cute girls too. They usually keep the girls away from us. It’s not like you have time to talk to girls outside of the gym. So we finally get to meet them at the banquets so it’s pretty cool.
JESSICA: So has there been a best, like if you were going to say the best one that you had the most fun with the girls, maybe on the dance floor, which event would that have been?
JOHN: Besides Tour, I don’t know. I guess all of them. I can’t really pick a favorite. They just keep getting better and better.
JESSICA: Is there anything else that you want people to know or you want to talk about or anything else that you want your fans to know?
JOHN: I always forget that I have actual fans. Like, I talk to some of my fans on Facebook and stuff. I’ll just message them if they sent me a nice message on Twitter. I’ll just say thanks for the support and keep it coming [LAUGHS]. Yeah thanks for the support, especially personally for me and for the sport of gymnastics.
JESSICA: I have to tell you, okay we’ve interviewed a lot of people. Blythe of course has been doing this forever. She’s interviewed everyone in the whole world and this is one of the best interviews we’ve had. You are so honest, so forthcoming. Even when you’re talking about Tour, you know it was sucky but I don’t want to put people down. This is my experience. And that was so honest and also what you said about the Olympics. This is what people saw and this is how I feel and I thought about quitting. All of that, I feel like it makes you so relatable. You’re so honest about your feelings. It’s just so refreshing. God I hope you’re going to be on the gymnastics what’s it called Let’s Get Ready to Tumble that they’re doing in the UK. You’d be so fantastic on a show like that. You’d be so great because I feel like we’re really talking to you. There’s no barrier. We’re really getting to know what you’re really like. It’s great.
JOHN: That’s another thing I’ve been trying to work on for myself. Because every time I do interviews, everyone’s on their best behavior and just give off this vibe of we’re all perfect but we’re not all perfect. I can’t help but be honest. I have to be honest. I can’t keep going on interviews and be like yeah I hope I do well and I do great and I always do well in the gym and everything is going great. It’s not always like that. People should know about the struggle that we have and the mental pressures and everything that goes with the Olympics. It’s not super easy. And that’s another thing. A lot of people, it’s so weird to me because they’re like oh you’re an Olympic gymnast. You’re a gymnast? Yeah. You going to the Olympics? Yeah. You’re going to win gold? Yeah. It’s not that easy.
JESSICA: Right like yeah no pressure. Someone was on the show and was like you know it’s harder to be an Olympic gymnast, just make the team than it is to be in the NBA.
JOHN: They’re like you fall you suck. No no I don’t suck. I promise. I’ve been trying to be more honest and actually tell the truth about my experiences in every interview I do, instead of just going over the same old same old that everyone’s expecting every interview has.
JESSICA: I think that’s when you actually make a difference and when you can actually touch people’s lives through what you do, not through just inspiring them because what you do is amazing and beautiful but also by being real. That is when people can relate and little kids will be like oh my God when I’m doing conditioning and I feel like I want to cry and I fall all day, oh John goes through this too? Ok.
JOHN: I still hate conditioning. But if you know your goals and you know what you want to do, even though it’s going to suck sometimes, you have to push yourself. Because nobody else is going to push you. If you can’t push yourself, it’s going to be hard for you to reach your goals. So just suck it up right now and you’ll reap the rewards in the end. No matter what happens, even if it doesn’t feel like it. I honestly believe that.
[Pharrell’s Happy plays]
ALLISON TAYLOR: This episode is brought to you by Elite Sportz Band. elitesportzband.com. We’ve got your back.
JESSICA: Visit elitesportzband.com. That’s sports with a Z and save $5 on your next purchase with the code Gymcast.