Gaveika an important asset to GymHawk staff


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Assistant Iowa women’s gymnastics coach Linas Gaveika frequently dumps sophomore Maya Wickus into trash cans, but he also helped coach her to her personal-best vault score, 9.85, on Sunday against Wisconsin-Stout.

Wickus won the event, claiming her first event title at Iowa. After finally reaching the high 9s on the vault, she is capable of one of the best in the country, head coach Larissa Libby said.

Gaveika is training her to be that champion.

“He’s really gotten to understand my vaulting capabilities and understand how I work with getting though vault every day in practice,” Wickus said. “So he kind of makes jokes out of it and relaxes me, which makes it easier to finish my practice.”

In past years, vault has been the GymHawks’ weakest event. But the entire team’s scores on the apparatus have increased since Gaveika joined the coaching staff in 2009.

“Working with Linas has improved our team as a whole,” Wickus said. “He’s very into details and many corrections, whereas Larissa and [assistant coach Caleb Phillips] are more into correcting the big skills.”

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Gaveika was born in Vilnius, Lithuania, and selected for the Lithuanian national team when he was 6. At the world championships, he was recruited by former Iowa head coach Tom Dunn and started competing for the Hawkeyes in 2001. After graduating, he returned to Iowa to remain as an assistant coach. He is now in his second year.

There’s a big difference between Lithuania and Iowa City, but Gaveika doesn’t feel out of place with the GymHawks.

“As I came here, I just liked the coaches and I liked the school. As I was going to other schools in the nation, I just got to appreciate our campus better,” Gaveika said. “I like the education, I like that it’s a Big Ten school. Actually, after I graduated, I didn’t really see myself anywhere else but here.”

As an athlete, Gaveika was trained to scrutinize the details of every routine and push for excellence. Because Libby was trained by Russian coaches with a similar coaching style, she and Gaveika share the same philosophy.

“He’s very, very good at teaching the technical aspect of the basics that we need,” Libby said. “The technical aspect that he brings to our program is amazing, and it’s really helped us to get where we are right now.”

Despite Gaveika’s strict coaching style, he has a sense of humor. At the Black and Gold intrasquad meet on Dec. 4, Wickus was joking with him and he retaliated by playfully dumping the gymnast into a trash can. The tradition has continued throughout the year and to the majority of the venues the GymHawks have competed at.

Gaveika has also nurtured another tradition out of an inside joke. When athletes were “fishing for compliments,” he said, he sarcastically asked if they wanted gold stars. The joke has become a motivation for the GymHawks to reach season goals, so they can get a Gaveika Gold Star.

By motivating the GymHawks to set goals and work hard to achieve them, he is developing the Iowa gymnasts into more than merely athletes; they are successful people as well.

“If you work hard, things will happen to you,” he said. “If you apply that anywhere else, people notice that. If you’re a sincere, hardworking person, they’ll go after you. People want to surround themselves with hardworking personalities, and that’s what we try to get through to the team.”

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