FEATURE: International Gymnast Shoulders Pain to Success
Jan. 31, 2011
By Kaitlyn Knopp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
"I had two taped up ankles," Yang said smiling. "But I made nationals."
Yang, a senior on the Nittany Lions men's gymnastics team, as well as a Canadian National Gymnastics team member, has been a top all-around competitor since 2004 when he won first place at the Canadian Nationals on the high bar.
This international gymnast applied to Penn State in 2007, but was also accepted to Big Ten schools Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan. In the end, Yang chose to don the Nittany Lion blue and white.
Yang's impressive record was paused in 2010 due to his injuries though, and it wasn't only his ankles injuries he had to worry about.
"It happened a couple years ago - we were competing against Michigan," Yang said. "I was dismounting off the high bar and I slipped my hand on my pant leg and ..."
The result was a tear in Yang's bicep, labrum and rotator cuff - though he did not know it until after NCAA's when he went in for a doctor's appointment and a MRI revealed the multiple tears.
"I competed the rest of the season," Yang said with a shrug. "It was really painful, but I competed."
After the fateful MRI, Yang underwent corrective surgery on his shoulder that redshirted him his 2010 year. His recovery, which he said happened "pretty quickly," began with light gymnastics within four months and doing routines within six months.
Then, in his junior year, he fell on a landing and suffered hairline fractures in both of his fibulas.
"When I started getting back [into practice], it was hard with tumbling and landing," Yang said. "It hurt to walk so bad ... but I really wanted to compete."
Finally able to compete this year, Yang came back and scored a career best in the parallel bars at the West Point Open with a 14.500, and at the meet versus Michigan - the same team against which his shoulder had been injured - he placed first in the floor exercise with a 14.800, second in the vault with a 15.900 and third in the high bar with a 14.600. Yang also scored a 14.500 on the floor exercise against Temple and Army.
"I'm trying to take it one step at a time," Yang said gesturing with his hands. Sitting in the team's navy and white practice uniform outside of the White Building practice room, Yang exuded confidence and determination. "I'm still not in the best shape. But it's all about peaking at the NCAA's and Big Ten Championships."
Yang said though he is confident in his team, he didn't want to say too much predicting their future performance.
"We showed last week at Michigan we are a great team and can do stuff," Yang said gazing into the practice room where his fellow teammates were already stretching for practice. Pausing he gave a serious smile. "But we have work to do. A lot of work to do."