CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois men’s gymnastics is perfecting the art of deception. The Illini won the Big Ten championship for the first time since 2012, with the majority of the team battling injuries.
“It’s kind of weird because we’re a sport based off perfection. You’re supposed to appear perfect despite feeling like crap,” head coach Justin Spring explained.
And the team is feeling bad in more ways than one.
“I was diagnosed with a mild concussion,” Tyson Bull said. “I’ve got a sprained ligament in my wrist.”
“Oh, gosh. I have wrist injury, ankle injury, back injury,” senior Bobby Baker added.
But balancing broken bodies with competition is nothing new to the Illini or gymnastics in general.
“I would confidently say that almost no one is at 100-percent when competing,” Spring said.
“If I’m thinking about the whole season, I would say we barely ever had our complete, full-strength lineup out there,” Bull said.
The Illini started 2018 strong, winning six of their first seven meets before falling to top-ranked Oklahoma at home. Their loss to the Sooners was their lowest team score of the season.
“I want to be this team that just propels, just charges through season undefeated and then that gives us great momentum in the postseason,” Spring explained. “But, yeah, we had to take a big tough loss to Oklahoma at home as Bobby is getting shipped off in an ambulance to the ER, Tyson get’s concussed. That was less than ideal.”
But the Illini say they refuse to let their injuries cut their postseason short. Several weeks removed from their tough loss, Illinois is only looking ahead.
“At this point in season, injuries are just something you deal with no matter what,” Baker continued. “The team is going to get through it.”
“It’s just been a little bit of a longer road this year, but I think the past two weeks it’s really started to come together and we’re peaking at the right time to be honest,” Bull said.
Nationals start on Friday in Chicago.