Six-time U.S. national all-around champion Sam Mikulak has had a lot of success at home, but is still searching for his first Olympic medal. The Tokyo Games would be his third appearance on the U.S. men’s gymnastics team and he hopes his new mindset will help him achieve success.
As part of our preparation for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, NBC Olympics sent questionnaires to a wide range of athletes to learn more about their lives on and off the field of play.
Here’s some of what we found out about Sam Mikulak:
Tell us about your family.
My parents, Stephen and Tina Mikulak, were both gymnasts that met on the University of California Berkeley gymnastics team. They had me doing mommy and me classes when I was two. I did other sports because they wanted me to find my own path, but in the end I ended up liking gymnastics the most. I have a sister, Alex Mikulak, she did gymnastics, but it wasn't really her thing. My dad is an Orthopedic Surgeon and was a huge help when it came to managing injuries from gymnastics.
How did your parents influence your gymnastics career?
I believe in happiness and passion being the route to motivation and success. I believe they instilled this in me and gave me every resource to be the best me that i wanted to be. Not only driving me to gym countless days and taking me everywhere for my competitions, but building me equipment so i could practice at home. My dad being able to give me the best help medically. Most importantly they loved me unconditionally and always put me first.
Do you have another job? What do you do and why?
Yes. MateBros is a tea brand that a few of my friends from high school and I started up after college. We loved drinking it before practices and competitions and others around us wanted some before as well. Instead of just sharing with our teammates and friends, we decided to mass produce it to share with the whole world.
I don't do it to support myself. It’s more of a fun side project that we hope could make us money some day. For now, we just like that others enjoy it the same way we do.
Do you have any pets?
I have a bull terrier mix named Marshall and a yellow lab mix named Lily. They’re named after Marshall and Lily from “How I Met Your Mother.” They are my girlfriend [now fiancee] and I's pride and joy. They've been a great outlet to get out of the house and destress from a hard day in the gym. They've changed my life in such a positive way and have honestly helped my gymnastics just by loving us.
How has your hometown shaped who you are?
I definitely hear a lot that I've got the laid back California demeanor. I'd say growing up in the sun next to the beach has given me an appreciation of life outdoors. Something about being involved with nature constantly is so restorative mentally and physically and made me understand that there’s more to life than just our sports or jobs, and to appreciate as much of life as possible.
What is your earliest memory of gymnastics?
I grew up surrounded by the sport, but the most memorable one was watching Paul Hamm win the 2004 Olympic All Around Gold Medal. It definitely put an image in my head of where I wanted to be one day.
When was your breakthrough moment?
I always knew I had potential to make the Olympic team, but when I was 19 and recovered from breaking both my ankles the year before the 2012 games, I placed 4th in the all-around against all the top guys in the U.S. and that was when I realized how good my chances actually were.
What would you change about gymnastics?
I wish we all had a universal line of equipment. I find it very frustrating having to adjust to new equipment that I've never used before. Also, so many countries use better equipment than we do in the U.S. giving them an advantage over us in terms of preparation and safety.
Who do you socialize with most within your sport?
My teammates and I are all really close friends. We really only hang out with each other outside of the gym.
What is the greatest part of living in the Olympic village?
Just being surrounded by people who are all on the path to greatness.
What advice would you give to a young gymnast?
Have fun and listen to your body.
Do you have a protege?
After the 2012 Olympics I really took the motto "Inspire a generation" to heart. I now host clinics to make as big of an impact on kids all over the country to help kids harness their passion.