GVSU junior to represent U.S. at gymnastic World Championships

GVL / Justin Hackett
Justin Hackett

GVL / Justin Hackett Justin Hackett

Samantha Butcher

Justin Hackett is not your average gymnast.

The long and lanky Grand Valley State University junior admits that he is not the ideal candidate for competitive gymnastics.

“My body shape is all wrong,” he said.

Wrong or not, his body shape has not prevented Hackett from twisting his way to the top in his events, the double mini and the trampoline. He will be competing for the United States gymnastics team at the World Championships in Metz, France, this November.

A relatively unknown event, the double mini shares characteristics of vault and trampoline. Competitors get a running start up an angled platform and trampoline twice into the air, performing a different skill each time.

Hackett, a Colorado Springs, Co., native, won the double mini event at the 2010 Visa Championships this summer. He said he went through some rough times before winning over the summer and getting the opportunity to represent the U.S. this November.

“I’d had a rough two seasons – a lot of mishaps, a lot of failed meets – and the season started to turn around,” he explained. “I tried to ignore the fact that I could win because I didn’t want that sticking in my head during the meeting, but when I finally stuck my last pass and I was waiting for my scores, I was pretty sure I’d won, but you can never know until the scores flash up. When they did… it was definitely one of the most ecstatic moments of my life.”

Hackett said he fell in love with gymnastics after giving up soccer at a young age. A decade later, his hard work is paying off. He trains nearly three hours per day for five days a week, alternating between gyms in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.

Despite his success, Hackett, who majors in cell and molecular biology, says he is a long way from reaching his goals. He plans to continue training through medical school and hopes to be representing the U.S. team on the trampoline in 2016.

“If my body can handle it and I have enough motivation, I’d like to see if I can go all the way to the 2016 Olympics, but that’s six years away,” he said. “Regardless, I’m far from done.”

Last year, Hackett was an Army ROTC. Although he was unable to continue this year due to time constraints, he said he plans to rejoin after he’s been accepted to medical school.

“I’ve definitely made sacrifices, and most of them have been social,” he said. “I can’t go out as much. On weeknights there’s no way I’m going anywhere. I rarely get to go to football games. My social life mostly exists in the gym or with who I live with.”

The sacrifices have been worth it, he said.

“It’s an adrenaline rush. It’s a lot of fun, it’s really exciting – it’s what I love,” he said.

The World Championships will be held in Metz, France, on Nov. 11 – 13.

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