Gym Hawk Brody Shemansky stands taller than most gymnasts


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Iowa gymnast Brody Shemansky has always been ahead of his competition in terms of height. In most, if not all sports, having a size advantage on the competition creates a favorable mismatch.

In gymnastics, though, the general perception is that taller athletes are at a disadvantage.

Shemansky, a senior from Los Gatos, Calif., has had to tailor his routines and techniques to better suit his height. Events such as the parallel bars, for example, have certain heights, so taller gymnasts are forced to bring their feet higher than shorter gymnasts do.

“Normally, for high-level gymnastics, the better gymnasts are usually shorter,” Hawkeye teammate Lance Alberhasky said. “So I’d say height is a disadvantage for gymnasts similar to Brody.”

The senior is listed at 5-11, but he notes he has grown an inch since that was recorded. At 6-feet, he isn’t abnormally tall for a human being. But for a gymnast, he’s an outlier.

“I always say my height is a double-edged sword,” he said. “If I were to break form, it’s a lot more noticeable. The line shows where you falter more so if you are tall. But it’s double-edged because if you have a good line, it really adds flair to your gymnastics that the shorter gymnasts really can’t obtain.”

Iowa men’s gymnastics head coach JD Reive understands the burden that height can impose on a gymnast. Not having a low center of gravity can doom gymnasts such as Shemansky in certain events. To counter that, Reive configures his lineups to benefit him and the rest of the Hawkeye squad.

“Sometimes, he’ll put me next to a shorter guy to make the next guy stand out more than he would have,” Shemansky said. “Or Coach Reive will put me after a shorter guy so that our lines are very different looking. By doing that, it shows the clean execution and the flair that you get by being a taller gymnast.”

Although height may impose certain disadvantages on gymnasts, Shemansky’s accomplishments as a Hawkeye are proof that even tall gymnasts can succeed. The 22-year-old was named to the All-Big Ten team last season as a junior. He also placed sixth in the all-around competition at the Big Ten championships with a career best score of 85.150.

With his time left at Iowa rapidly coming to a close, he has set some lofty goals.

“I would like to compete in the all-around and be selected to the first-team All-Big Ten team again,” Shemansky said. “In addition to that, I would really like to finish with an All-American spot in the all-around competition this year.”

The general perception and argument against tall gymnasts grows weaker with every podium performance he turns out. The Hawkeye and his teammates know that despite his height, Iowa’s success this season can be directly correlated to their senior’s performance.

“Over the years, he’s definitely had to make an adjustment for being tall,” senior teammate Anton Gryshayev said. “But at this point, he’s been doing it for so long, it’s not much of a disadvantage for someone like Brody.”

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