Wes Haagensen was an exciting junior talent – a multiple junior national team member and junior national champion – who went on to excel in the NCAA at the University of Illinois.  Several All-American honors and even a 2nd place all-around finish at the 2007 NCAA Championships would have been enough for most gymnasts to cap off their careers and move on into the professional world.  But for Wes, there was something more.  Perhaps it was the success of the 2008 USA men’s Olympic team – which won the bronze medal just after Wes’s senior year in college – that inspired him to continue to pursue his own Olympic dream.  Or perhaps it was something he planned all along…knowing deep in his heart that he hadn’t completed his ultimate mission in this sport.  After moving to the Olympic Training Center and recommitting himself to his international aspirations, Wes proved himself in a big way.  His stellar third-place all-around performance at the 2009 Visa U.S. Championships not only landed him his first spot on the senior national team…he found himself heading to his first world championships.

Though Wes’s greatest strength last year was his solid, well-balanced all-around, at worlds he served as one of the USA’s representatives on the team’s two weakest events: pommel horse and rings.  It was a valuable experience for the 23-year-old recent college graduate…he was the USA’s highest finisher on rings during the preliminaries (20th with a 6.4, 14.875 score) and placed 34th on pommel horse (5.9, 13.875), showing some promise on the team’s nemesis from Beijing.  It was like the start of a “second” career for Haagensen…a launching pad into a new quadrennium that he hoped would ultimately lead him to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

There was once a time when 24 was considered “old” for a male gymnast, but by today’s standards it’s clearly still quite young.  As the male body seems to physically “peak” somewhere around mid to late 20’s, continuing to compete until nearly age 30 now seems to be the norm rather than the exception.  Wes will be 26 when the 2012 Olympics roll around…a perfect age to give it everything he’s got to make his dream a reality.

One great thing about Wes is that he posts some of his training videos on YouTube.  I think these videos are probably a bit undiscovered at this point, so I’m hoping to get these out there to show how good his gymnastics really is and what he could offer the U.S. team.  He should certainly be in contention to make the world team this year, but he is by no means a lock.  He’ll likely be battling with gymnasts like Chris Cameron, Tim McNeill, Kevin Tan, and Brandon Wynn for a spot in the lineup on pommel horse, rings, or both.  He also has some exceptional combinations on p-bars that could be an asset, and his high bar is packed with difficulty as well.  Let’s take a look at how his training is going leading into next week’s U.S. Championships:

Wes Haagensen Rings Training July 23, 2010

Wes Haagensen P-Bars Training July 23, 2010

Wes Haagensen High Bar Training July 23, 2010

Wes Haagensen Floor Training July 23, 20201

I’d really like to see how his pommel horse is going, as I still think pommel horse and rings are going to be his ticket if he wants to make this world team, because that’s where the team needs the most help.  But it certainly wouldn’t hurt him to have some solid routines on p-bars and high bar as well.  I LOVE the peach full turn and that entire opening sequence on p-bars…he has a good overall look and I think the judges will score him well, especially if he can clean up just some very minor details.  Rings looks really promising, especially considering he had shoulder surgery in December.  If he can score a 15+ there, he could possibly set himself up as one of our top three ring guys.  Ideally he’ll need to score at least a high 14 on pommel horse as well.  It sounds like he also had knee surgery just in May…not bad for getting a floor routine back that quickly!

I’m definitely impressed with his intensity and his confidence…he’s obviously been working very, very hard and wants this badly.  He’ll be one to watch out for next week!