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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Roommates, gymnasts among U-M athletes competing in 2012 Olympics


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Sam Mikulak


Syque Caesar

Typically on a Saturday, student roommates Sam Mikulak and Syque Caesar might hang out with friends, watch a movie on TV or play video games.

But come Saturday, the U-M Men's Gymnastics Team teammates will be in London, competing in qualification rounds in hopes of advancing to the Olympic finals.

Mikulak will be competing for the United States team, while Caesar will compete as the first-ever Olympic gymnast representing Bangladesh. They are among 26 athletes and coaches on the U-M roster for the 2012 London Olympics, compiled by the Athletic Department.

"Sam is a very calm competitor. The greater the pressure, the more relaxed he becomes," says Kurt Golden, the head U-M gymnastics coach who also will be attending the London games as a U.S. team assistant. "Syque … it's unique how much he studies gymnastics. He can tell you about every opponent. They're both real good team guys," Golden says.

Caesar, a fifth-year senior from Port St. Lucie, Fla., already has competed twice for Bangladesh, winning that country's first gold medal in an international gymnastics competition last December.

"I think for both of us it hasn't really sunk in yet," Caesar says shortly before leaving Ann Arbor for London.

"I'm just glad he's going to be there," says Mikulak, a junior from Corona del Mar, Calif. "I'll get to cheer him on. Having a little bit of Michigan there, having that support will be a comfort."

Both of Mikulak's parents were gymnasts. "They met at Cal Berkeley. My father went to the Olympic trials, my mother was on the national team," he says. While he also played team sports growing up, Mikulak says he preferred gymnastics. "I was really competitive, I hated losing, when I had to rely on someone else to win the game. I found I thrived on having that solo motivation."

Mikulak says training, about 20 hours per week in preparation for the games, has been going great. "I'm just ready for it to happen," he says. "I'm excited. This is a whole new thing in my life, I want to meet as many athletes and hear the stories they tell. Maybe they can teach me things."

For a recent training session on campus, Caesar wears a predominantly green Bangladesh team training uniform. "It was very difficult for me to get up this morning and wear these colors on campus," he says, smiling. "But I'm really excited to represent the country, I couldn't be happier." He was encouraged to seek a spot on the team by his father. Both his parents are from Bangladesh.

Caesar says the prospect he and Mikulak will compete against each other really hasn't come up. "It hasn't changed much in terms of our relationship. We do talk about the collegiate season next year. Our goal is to win the national championship."

While both each identify a handful of events each feels particularly good at, both identify parallel bars as the one event they both excel at — which suggests they could meet in that event in the finals.

"I will be ecstatic if that happens," Caesar says.