Sept. 20, 2007
BERKELEY, Calif. -
In April, Tim McNeill became the second-ever Golden Bear to win two men's gymnastics national titles in the same year - winning his first national championship on the parallel bars and repeating on pommel horse. The Bears kick off their 2008 campaign on January 18 and according to McNeill, they're stronger than ever. CalBears.com recently sat down with McNeill to discuss the squad, his summer, his plans for his senior year and his other interests.
CalBears.com: How did you spend your summer break?
McNeill: "It didn't go anywhere near according to plan. In May, I went to the international competition in Moscow, which was really exciting. It was a really different experience from competing at home, especially from competing in the NCAA environment. I spent about a week there, and I spent most of the time training and then I competed. I was a little disappointed in my performance there, which I am just going to attribute it to nerves. Then, I think it was three weeks later, I was selected onto a six-man team. It was a tri-meet against Russia, Ukraine and the U.S. That was an even bigger deal for me to be part of the tri-meet.
"Then about a week before I was going to go there, I tore my labrum in my right shoulder. The surgery [on my shoulder] went well. It is still in recovery. I am really not allowed to do anything on my arm for at least three months. It is particularly frustrating having to miss the selection for the world championship team. I had really wanted to be a part of that. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity. I was in Berkeley most of the summer. I went home for two weeks. Other than that I came back here. I hadn't really planned anything because I figured I would be training. It was actually a very relaxing summer. I slept until about 2 p.m. everyday, and I had a good time."
CalBears.com: Have you set any goals for this upcoming season?
CalBears.com: What do you think stands out about the 2007-08 squad?
McNeill: "Definitely, the day after NCAA's last year, the whole team's goal, and definitely my main goal, is to win the team national championship. I know that gets tossed around a lot and people say, `We want to win this year.' The team as a whole is so united in this that I feel we can definitely achieve it. This is the most talented team I have been on since I have been here; there is really no reason why we shouldn't win."
"The depth of our team. In a collegiate meet, there are six people who compete in four events. This year, we can have two people mess up and still have four other good people. In previous years, all four people had to do perfectly. This year, we have six people on an event, two people can fall every time, and we can still do well because of our depth, talent and motivation. Everyone was frustrated, including myself, after last year. We expected to do a lot better. But I think everyone has taken that frustration and has turned it into motivation."
CalBears.com: What's the most enjoyable part of being a student-athlete at Cal?
McNeill: "It's exciting to know that most of these people on campus focus all their attention on their schoolwork. But as a student-athlete, we definitely have a huge commitment besides schoolwork - we have to balance both school and sport - and to know that student-athletes can keep up with the other students and such, I think that's cool."
CalBears.com: Are the Olympics in your sights at all right now?
McNeill: "Well, every little kid who does gymnastics dreams about the Olympics and thinks they're going to go, and then, when you get older, that seems to fall out of reach. So many people are doing sports, why would I be one of the top six chosen to go? And so, a lot of people give up on this dream. It wasn't until I was 18 when I thought, `Maybe it's not too far out of reach, maybe I could be on that Olympic team.' Now, that's definitely a long leap for the one right now, but it's totally not a big deal. I'm not going to be done with gymnastics for hopefully two more years, and so, it's always on my mind. It's definitely a huge goal for me."
CalBears.com: Describe winning your national championships.
McNeill: "That was one of the best feelings I've ever had - the first one was amazing, the second one was probably greater. The best part about it is knowing in all three instances that I couldn't have done a better routine in that occasion. In the prelims of this year, I did kind of poorly on the pommel horse, and I came into event finals ranked in ninth place. Then, I did the best routine I could ask for. Knowing that I can take my practices, and when it really, really counts, I can do it exactly like I do in practice. It's not just that moment when I won the event. It's for all future competitions, knowing that when the pressure is on and an NCAA title is on the line, and I can go out there and do the best I can."
CalBears.com: Besides men's gymnastics, what's your favorite sport to watch at Cal?
McNeill: "Football, definitely, I have been to a few football games. The games are loud. Sometimes sitting down would be nice, but no, I love going to the student section, pretty much the whole team will go together to watch and cheer."
CalBears.com: If you were not a Cal gymnast, would you be interest in participating on another Cal team?
McNeill: "Actually, yes. For a few summers, I was a diver and practiced two hours a week. It was totally for fun. I competed against the other pools in the area, and I was really good at it because you get all the air awareness and flipping and twisting abilities from gymnastics, so it's really easy to transfer it to diving. I had a lot of fun with diving, so if I wasn't doing gymnastics, I would definitely be doing diving."
CalBears.com: What do you do when you're not in the gym or class?
McNeill: "Most likely studying. I would much prefer hanging out with my teammates. I live in a house with a lot of my teammates. We are always together, I love to be hanging out with them or hanging out with my girlfriend."
CalBears.com: What is your favorite place to eat in Berkeley?
McNeill: "Chipotle, the barbeque fajita burrito. That's not just in Berkeley; they have Chipotle in Virginia. I would eat it four or five times a week."
CalBears.com: What is the most interesting class you're taken so far?
McNeill: "Physics 10, which is Physics for Future Presidents. It was really interesting. It is one of the only classes here that I didn't actually mind reading the textbook. It was really interesting, the professor was great."
CalBears.com: What was your dream job when you were little?
McNeill: "I wanted to own my own gymnastics facility. It is what I wanted to do and still do - if I could come up with the money, I would open a gym and then I would run it"
CalBears.com: If you could see any musician or band in concert right now, who would it be?
McNeill: "Eminem. I've seen him before and I'm kind of his best fan. I have a friend who made a painting for me of Eminem that's hanging on my wall and an autograph from him that my girlfriend got me."
CalBears.com: What's one thing that your roommates may not know about you?
McNeill: "That's pretty hard because I live with a lot of the team, and they know me pretty well. They might not know all the pets I have at home. At one time, I had a dog, two cats, a rabbit, a cocktail, a pig, a turtle, a goldfish and two hamsters."