Jiang leads by example


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As one of only three seniors on Iowa’s young men’s gymnastics team, Mike Jiang is a natural leader.

That he’s an All-American doesn’t hurt, either.

Coming off a season in which he finished seventh in the pommel horse at the 2010 NCAA Championships, the Littleton, Colo., native is obviously regarded highly by his coaches and his teammates.

“It’s somebody to look up to,” sophomore Anton Gryshayev said. “You strive to be like Michael Jiang on [pommel] horse.”

“There’s not many good pommel horse swingers, and he’s one of them,” head coach JD Reive said. “His technique is pretty flawless.”

Jiang attributes his success to “commitment, motivation, persistence, and the support of my teammates.”

Reive gives a much simpler answer to his success: talent.

The first-year coach said that having an All-American in the gym gives his team a guide on what championship-level gymnastics looks like.

“It’s good for the rest of the team, especially the young guys who don’t have any NCAA experience, to see what he’s doing and say, ‘That’s what All-American is, that’s the kind of gymnastics we need to be doing,’ ” Reive said.

Jiang’s leadership shows up in big spots, Gryshayev said.

“He’s definitely clutch when it needs to be done,” he said. “If we need a hit on horse, he’ll provide it. Not many people can hold under pressure, and Mike Jiang seems to do it pretty well.”

The clutch abilities of Jiang showed up in the NCAAs last season, where, he said, it was “hit or miss” to become an All-American.

“I saw a lot of guys fall, and I knew if I hit, I would be an All-American,” he said.

His score of 14.550 in the event earned him seventh place.

Jiang said he feels Reive’s arrival has given him “a push” in his senior season. Gryshayev said that if Reive had been the Iowa coach for Jiang’s entire career as opposed to just his final season, he believes Jiang would have achieved All-American status more than once.

Jiang’s status as an All-American drives the rest of the team to improve, Gryshayev said.

“If we get the mentality of wanting to out-do each other, we will be a [much] stronger team,” he said.

Along with being a national contender on the pommel horse, both Jiang and Reive look at the high bar as another event in which he can excel in his final season. Jiang is happy with his development and believes he can make an impact at NCAAs with more progress.

“He’s been improving quite a bit in high bar,” Reive said. “If he continues to perform well, it’s a good set.”

Jiang’s gymnastics is appealing not just to judges, the coach said, but to a person who knows little about the sport.

“He stands out,” he said. “Even if you don’t know gymnastics, you can look at him and his routine and say, ‘That looks nice.’ ”

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