At the age of 3 my mother signed me up for Taekwondo. I absolutely loved Taekwondo and was dead set on pursuing a career in the sport. When I was 9 years old I earned my first degree Black Belt. Shortly after this the school shut down. Unfortunately, there were no other Taekwondo schools nearby. Thanks to the sport I was strong, flexible, fast, and disciplined. I was set up perfectly for my next sport. However, little did I know what my next sport would be. "A jockey, a cheerleader, or a gymnast" my mother said were my next options. She made this decision because the tallest person in my ancestry up to my great grandparents was 5'11" and in my immediate family is 5'8". I was the smallest kid in my school class.
Against my will my mother brought me to gymnastics. I was hesitant to go into to the gym because of the 'girly' reputation gymnastics sometimes gets, but once I was in there it was a BLAST! I was jumping on trampolines, swinging on bars, and flipping into foam pits. I was quickly approached by a woman, Tatiana Kovaleva, who was a 1996-1999 World Champion from Russia that just recently moved to the United States. She asked my parents if I would be interested in joining the Trampoline team. Despite our lack of knowledge in the sport, they knew I would be great in it.
Fast forward 8 years later and I'm competing in the 2008 US Olympic Trials for a spot on the team to represent USA in Beijing, China in the sport of Trampoline-Gymnastics. Leading up to the 3rd and last trial I was ranked #1 (only ONE American male and ONE female will represent USA in Trampoline). Unfortunately in my final routine I had a fall on my last skill- instantly putting my Olympic dreams off until 4 years later.
In 2012, I was in the same situation- ranked #1 leading up to the third and final Olympic Trial. This time was different, I was destined to compete in London. Fortunately my hard work, patience, and dedication paid off. I was off to compete in London. The Olympic Games are like something an athlete dreamed up. There wasn't anything to make it better. Between getting 3 suitcases full of Nike, Adidas, and Ralph Lauren gear, walking in Opening Ceremonies, and training on equipment in a stadium that holds 20,000 people with the Olympic rings everywhere you glaze- it was the time of my life.
The plan was to be the first American to make the final in Trampoline, earn a medal, and retire. Unfortunately, the trampoline is like a balance beam with springs, I took a fall. Unlike gymnastics you're not allowed to get back up and finish your routine. My Olympic dreams of medaling were once again postponed.
In 2014, I had a training accident where I had a compound fracture on my radius and ulna; with the ulna coming through the skin. I was at a training camp in Tennessee and needed immediate surgery in risk of infecting the bone. After I was discharged I flew back home and wasted no time going through doctors that would not have the knowledge and expertise that I needed. Through the U.S. Olympic Committee I was recommended to go to HSS. Dr. Steve Lee had a difficult decision to make as the bone was not healing quickly. At the date where normal doctors make a decision to declare the injury a "non-union" and go back in for surgery or to let it heal, the bones were still not healing. Under Dr. Steve Lee's expertise he advised to wait, the gymnast in me disagreed- the faster we can do surgery the faster I can get back into the gym. Thank goodness I went to Dr. Lee because a few weeks later my arm was healing up nicely, and I was back in the gym shortly after that!
My training for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio was back on! It was even more exciting now because my girlfriend of a year was from Rio! A few weeks before the 2015 World Championships I tore my meniscus in my right knee and acquired a cyst on the tear. I competed with the injury (and actually the flu as well) and did my job. Unfortunately it wasn't enough to put me into the semi-final (I missed it only by 2 places) but it was enough to help Team USA. The World Championships were held in late November 2015 and our first Olympic Trial was February of 2016.
I arrived home on 12/2/16, and with the help of USOC-HSS Ambassador Program I had an appointment the next day. I saw Dr. Scott Rodeo, and him being a leading doctor for USA Swimming, the NY Giants, and the Olympic Movement, he understood my urgency with Olympic Trials being just a few short months away. He sent me home with a surgery date in 3-4 weeks; it was ideal but I was happy he was squeezing me in. Later that day I received a phone call if I could make it at 6 am that Friday morning. I was ecstatic!
The surgery went absolutely perfect, and I was back in the gym in no time! At the first Olympic Trial I finished 3rd place (remember still only ONE athlete will compete in the Olympic Games and one athlete will earn the replacement athlete position). At the second Olympic Trial I finished 3rd place again. I needed to win the last Olympic Trial by 3.0 to win. At the last Olympic Trial I WON....by 2.6. Unfortunately not enough. However, I earned the replacement athlete position and will travel to Rio. I will stay in the USOC village of replacement athletes from all other sports. Should the competitor get injured, sick, and become unable to compete I will step up and represent USA.
This is all thanks to HSS, Dr. Lee, and Dr. Rodeo. At 26 years old I am no longer young for my sport but in fact one of the elders. Should I decide to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics I will definitely be needing some help to keep this "old" body together, and there is no where else I would go except HSS!