Akash Modi just finished up his junior year at Stanford… and now he hears he’s heading to Rio this summer as an alternate for the US Men’s Gymnastics Team. Chances are he does not compete and only trains with the elite—but talk about a memorable summer studies abroad program.
Modi had a great showing, finishing 4th All-Around after two days of competition out in St. Louis for the Olympic Trials.
Except, All-Around accolades at a meet like this are somewhat misleading. The Olympic Selection Committee’s job is to come up with the best combination of scores compromised by five individuals. Three gymnasts compete and score for each event, so rather than bring five satisfactory and complete puzzles down to Rio, the goal is to piece together an exceptional puzzle from separate gymnasts. Gymnasts like Alex Naddour and John Orozco, who both made the team, did not even attempt all events at the Trials, knowing they would not be used on those weaker events at the Olympics.
The rising senior was not expecting to crack the roster going in, and was simply competing for the experience to do so against the very best. Where he could have served valuable for the team would have been on the pommel horse and parallel bars. Modi’s fall on pommel horse on Day 1 probably sealed his fate of not making the actual roster, and to actually come back two nights later and hear his name called as an alternate caught him by surprise just as much as it did everyone else.
Modi described the scene when he found out, in an interview with Team USA the following day.
"It was last night around 1 a.m. I was still up. I was actually in the parking lot of a Denny’s. I had just finished eating with my family. We heard the news and just went crazy. I had my parents and a lot of my aunts and uncles that came from Chicago. It was really an awesome moment."
Growing up with a brother competing at a gym within miles of Modi’s Monmouth Gymnastics, it is truly amazing to see the same scrawny little kid I saw competing years ago, now an Olympian.
Akash will now have the opportunity to train and travel with the team as if he is actually competing, and in a dangerous sport like gymnastics, who knows? There always remains a chance we can see him representing the Cardinal and his country in Rio.