Friday, June 29, 2012

Glen Ishino...and the Two-Minute Drill

His older siblings all excelled in sports, so it was just natural that Glen follow suit. All four Ishino kids took gymnastics. All four competed at the collegiate level (his brother, Gian, wrestled). And, two, are in elite company…those who have competed to make an Olympic team.

His sister, Allyse, was an alternate for the 2004 Olympic women’s gymnastics team and competed at Stanford—his rival school.
Glen in the midst
of a circle on pommel.
“There really isn’t too much of a rivalry,” said Glen, who is a Cal Bear. “My oldest sister [Genine] also went to Cal, so when we are at family gatherings we bug Allyse a little about the rivalry stuff. But, it’s not a big deal. We just tease her a little.”

We’ll try to keep this on the down low for all those who uphold this rivalry and for the Cal Bears who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing Stanford red.
As an older sister who has been there, Allyse has offered advice to Glen along the way.

“When I went to college, she warned me that it would be different than competing in high school,” he said. “The major change was that in high school you were competing for yourself and in college it’s for the entire team. Your teammates have faith in you to hit your routine and you have faith in them that they will hit their routines. It’s a different dynamic and it took me a while to get used to. In the National events [like Olympic Trials], it’s different…it is for you.”
Coming out of high school, Glen was the No. 1 junior gymnast in the country. He has won the all-around at the 2008 US Championships. Glen trained at SCATS Gymnastics in Huntington Beach, CA, and that seemed to make a difference.

“I had two great coaches, Grigor [Chalikyan] and Albert [Avchain],” he said. “And, the facility is great. It’s huge and they have good equipment. Every piece of equipment has a pit, which is good for development. The combination of the coaches and the equipment made it easier to become top in the nation.”
Although, it wasn’t just high-level training that molded this champion. A certain toy seemed to help develop his skills for pommel horse--his best event, as evidenced by his first place finishes at the 2012 NCAA championship and the 2012 Winter Cup Challenge.

“My parents bought a Little Mushroom, a child’s pommel horse,” Glen said. “My brother helped me with circles and that excelled me and my niche for pommel. Things came easier and it was fun.
“For the U.S. team, we’ve been weaker on pommel, for whatever reason,” he continued. “It’s kind of my trump card that I’m good in pommel. Although, high bar is my favorite.”

At Cal, Glen continued to compete at a high-level. In 2009 he was the NCAA all-around silver medalist. In 2010, he was the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Gymnast of the Year and won the MPSF all-around title; 2010 National pommel horse bronze medalist; the 2010 Pan American Championships pommel horse champion and all-around silver medalist; and the 2010 NCAA pommel horse silver medalist. In 2012, he was also the 2012 NCAA high bar silver medalist.
While many gymnasts take the year before the Olympics to train, Glen opted to compete for Cal this year. Once the season was over he could focus on his individual goal…to make the Olympic team. And, this change of focus hasn’t changed his preparation.

“This year I approached it step-by-step,” he said. “The collegiate season was very important. At times I got selfish and was thinking ahead [to the Olympic Trials], but I took it meet by meet. After the NCAAs I thought…ok now that competing for Cal is done, I have time to focus on me and competing for the Trials.
“For collegiate it is more about consistency and higher hit percentage is better for team,” he continued. “This is less about the team, more about risk. I put in more difficulties and higher skills, but overall not too much has changed from the NCAAs to Trials on my routines. My training has stayed the same. I train all around all year as my body permits. The biggest change is the little injuries that add up and take you by surprise. I have to be careful not to overwork and be smart with my training plan. A year ago my grip snapped on the high bar and I hyper-extended my back. I was pulled out of all-around mode and stuck to pommel and a few other events. The coach put me on a good training schedule and I recovered quickly. In the past it took a long time to come back.”

So, what is it that keeps Glen pushing forward?
“I love so many things [about gymnastics],” he said. “I am performer and I love being at big meets where the crowds go crazy. I love when I hit my routine and see the reaction I get from them. You can never be perfect and someone can always beat you. You are always working with the code changing and no one can stay on top for too long. I’m always trying to be more consistent. It’s an endless game for me.”

And, he’s excited about competing at the Olympic Trials in San Jose, CA, in front of a home crowd.

"It’s my first time competing locally,” Glen said. “I am excited to see a lot more family and friends in the stands. My teammates have already bought tickets. So many arms of support in the stands…it’s a lot different that I’m used to. It’s exciting to think about.”