Injuries take athletes out of their sport all the time. In many cases, athletes who sustain injuries can take several weeks to fully recover and come back. In the world of gymnastics, just two days of rest is considered a long break, and coming back from a substantial injury is rare.
However, for Ohio State sophomore men’s gymnast Max Andryushchenko, suffering an injury was not the end of his career. Despite having suffered a fracture to the spine called spondylosis due to stress on the vertebrae from continuous overuse in practice prior to college, his performance has not faltered. He made the men’s U.S. National team in 2016, claiming the national title on rings in 2017.
“Overcoming adversity is a pretty good strength of mine. I know how to go through tough situations,” Andryushchenko said. “I feel like I am a pretty resilient person so I can get through whatever is happening at the time.”
Head gymnastics coach Rustam Sharipov looks for work ethic in his athletes and believes it is Andryushchenko’s strongest asset.
“He’s never the ‘I’m going to do it tomorrow,’ person. He wants to get it today, and he wants to do it now,” Sharipov said. “You have to slow him down. Some kids set the bar maybe just on the low or medium level. Max is always expecting himself to work hard every day.”
Andryushchenko fell in love with gymnastics and began competitively training at the age of 6 after observing his father’s practices as a gymnastics coach in Chicago. His father trained him up to college until his current coach took the reins.
Andryushchenko said consistency with training is the biggest challenge when it comes to gymnastics.
“There’s a lot of days where it’s really hard to be motivated and you just gotta find it,” he said. “The most important thing is to find a plan and stick to it. If you catch yourself starting to slip up, just push yourself through the moments you don’t want to do it.”
Sean Neighbarger, a second-year in exercise science and on the men’s gymnastics team, finds Andryushchenko’s dedication and perseverance to be what he admires most of his teammate.
“He helps me put things into perspective,” Neighbarger said. “Seeing him be able to push back through his injury, it was a nerve-wracking situation for him, and just being able to see how he dealt with that — he dealt with it pretty amazingly.”
While Andryushchenko’s teammates admire his drive, his coach recognizes his role as a team leader. Sharipov said expectations have gone up for Andryushchenko now that he has shown a track record of being a leader both in and out of the gym.
In taking on this leadership role, Andryushchenko said he understands the impact he has on his teammates.
“Something I think is incredibly important is how you as an individual can affect other people,” he said. “Know the importance of [how] what you do in the gym transfers to other people and how it affects others the way you behave and the way you work.”
Andryushchenko said being a gymnast at Ohio State has taught him many valuable life lessons. He said he has learned how important it is to work with other people beyond just training and routines.
But for Andryushchenko, gymnastics also has provided a series of challenges. He said his personal and team goals are what drive him through the darkest of days.
“Every time I hit a rough patch, that’s what I think about, that I want to get better and I need to work to do so,” he said. “I know that if I’m having a rough day and I decide to quit, then I’m getting worse.”
Having conquered many obstacles in gymnastics so far, he is confident in his ability to face the future.
“I’ve had a pretty clumsy journey but I’ve come back from [injuries] every single time so I have no doubts I can do it again if it happens,” Andryushchenko said.
Upon graduation, Andryushchenko plans to go into business with his father and help him run the gym he currently owns.