Categorized | Club, Featured, Men's Gymnastics

StickItMedia Exclusive Interview: Jacob Dastrup

Posted on 09 February 2010 by admin

*** UPDATED ***

U.S. men’s gymnastics is developing some very formidable athletes on pommel horse.  One of those is Jacob Dastrup, a level 10 gymnast who trains under Coach Bob Gauthier at Arete Gymnastics in Lindon, UT.  Dastrup placed 2nd on the event at the 2009 JO Nationals as a level 9, and was the 2008 Level 9 JO Nationals pommel horse champion.  He’s also an accomplished all-arounder who finished 4th at the 2009 JO Nationals and 9th in 2008.

After completing his last year of level 9, Jacob, known by all his friends as Jake, turned a lot of heads last July at the VISA Qualifier.  He not only qualified for VISAs in the level 10 (14-15 age division), but he placed tied for 2nd AA in a crowded field.  Jake followed that up the next month at VISAs by placing 7th in the AA and taking 3rd on pommel horse.  A lot of hard work earned Jake a spot on the level 10 Junior National Team.

Starting out in baseball, Jake got his introduction to gymnastics back in 2004, just after Paul Hamm won the Olympic gold medal in Athens.  Jake’s best friend and next door neighbor, a level 5 gymnast at the time, invited him to his gym.  Shortly thereafter, Jake impressed the coach so much that he contacted Jake’s parents and asked if they would consider putting him on the team.  Initially a level 4, Jake was soon moved up to level 5, and by the end of his first season, he was one of the top level 5 gymnasts in the state.  According to Jake’s dad, Mat, "he has been hooked ever since."

Devoted gym parents, Mat and Kaylyn Dastrup have really enjoyed Jake’s impressive gymnastics career, especially all the faraway trips to the big meets.  One trip in particular really stands out for Mat, who recalled the flight to Oklahoma City for the 2007 JO Nationals.  That was the first time Jake had qualified for JO Nationals, and he was traveling with two other teammates who had also qualified.  Sitting a few rows behind the three boys, Mat decided to enlist the help of one of the Southwest Airlines flight attendants in playing a little prank on the boys.  He let her know that the three excited boys sitting just ahead were talented gymnasts on their way to a very important meet.

Mat and the attendant hatched a scheme to make it appear the boys were in trouble for making too much noise and disturbing other passengers.  The attendant obliged by scolding the boys and ordering them to the back of the plane.  Dumbfounded by all the commotion, they were assigned a punishment of passing out peanuts to all the passengers.  The boys soon figured out the ruse and ended up having a blast with the task.  They were each rewarded with a free deck of cards and a round of applause from throughout the cabin after the flight attendant announced over the PA system that the three young "troublemakers" were actually gymnasts on their way to an important national competition.

Coach Gauthier recalled when Jake first came to his gym at age ten.  He had just completed his first year of gymnastics and was moving up to level 6.  Jake had just started doing circles on pommels and was doing them everywhere.  Gauthier would say, "Jake, we’re not on the horse right now.  Can you concentrate on rings and save the circles for later?"  Gauthier also issued a challenge early on when he proposed that Jake skip Level 6 and move on to Level 7.  Jake replied that he wanted to remain a six and wanted no part of Level 7, because he wanted to "rule Level 6."  Gauthier relented, but insisted on Jake learning some Level 7 skills and playing around with both routines.

As the season drew near, Gauthier suggested that he compete Level 7 at the first meet to see how it goes.  As it turned out, Jake had a great meet and placed 3rd in the AA.  Seeing how pleased Jake was, Gauthier pulled him aside and said, "maybe you’re right, let’s just do Level 6 this year so you can rule it."  "No, Jake said, I like Level 7 now!"  Jake proceeded to have a successful season and things just got better after that.  According to Gauthier, "Jake is the one in the gym who will take your turn if you don’t.  So, if you’re in line and not ready, you will be watching Jake take your turn."

Jake was a top-10 fixture at Future Stars in 2006 and 2007, and is a promising rising star.  He is one of the best of this season’s new incoming group of Level 10s (age 14-15).  Anybody who thinks America is weak on pommel horse had better think again, and they had better take a look at all the talent lining up.  Jake Dastrup is one of those talents.

StickItMedia recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jacob Dastrup:

SiM:  How did you get interested in gymnastics?

Jake:  I had a friend who did four sports, and one that stuck out for me was gymnastics.  I begged my mom for weeks to try and she finally signed me up for a gymnastics class.

SiM:  What inspires you to compete?

Jake:  Thinking about doing well at big meets really inspires me.  Another thing that drives me is having the experience of competing at VISAs.  I think about VISAs every time I am having a bad day at the gym, and it really encourages me to do what it takes to be a good gymnast.

SiM:  How difficult is it for you to stay highly competitive and what have been your biggest challenges?

Jake:  My least favorite thing about gymnastics has to be the practices.  Practicing can be fun when you are learning new skills, but it’s the routines that I dislike.  My biggest challenges recently have been injuries.  I just want to get back to being healthy.

SiM:  Which events challenge you the most, and why?

Jake:  My most challenging event would probably be parallel bars, because it’s my sloppiest event and it is difficult for me.

SiM:  What are your proudest gymnastics and non-gymnastics achievements?

Jake:  My proudest gymnastics achievement is making the level 10 Junior National Team.  My proudest non-gymnastic achievement would probably be just doing well in school.

SiM:  What are your goals for this season?

Jake:  Well, right now, i am recovering from a broken collar bone and from shoulder problems.  This season I really just want to get back to being healthy and getting ready for nationals.

SiM:  What are your gymnastics and academic goals for the next four years?

Jake:  My gymnastics goals are to keep excelling and to represent the U.S. in competitions. Academically, I just want to graduate from high school with good grades.

SiM:  Who are your role models, and why?

Jake:  Well, I have a lot of role models, but I would say Paul Hamm and Kohei Uchimura.

SiM:  What’s the best advice you have ever received?

Jake:  To always work hard.

SiM:  What is your honest assessment of the Future Stars program?

Jake:  I personally think that Future Stars is a good program.  I went through future stars myself and it is a big stepping stone in gymnastics in my opinion.

SiM:  What do you like to do other than gymnastics?

Jake:  I enjoy spending time with my family, hanging out with friends, and drumming.

SiM:  What is your favorite thing about walking into the gym every day?

Jake:  I get excited when I’m working on a new skill.  I just can’t wait to get working on it.

Check out some great videos of Jake:

2008 JO Nationals 1st place level 9 pommel horse routine

2009 season montage

2009 VISA Qualifier

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