If you’re a longtime fan of the Olympics or USA Gymnastics, Sam Mikulak is a name that should be familiar to you. The 28-year-old has been part of the American gymnastics program for multiple Olympic cycles now. And he has come close to medaling on more than one occasion.
At the London Olympics in 2012, he finished in fifth place in the team competition alongside the rest of his Team USA cohorts. He also finished fifth on the vault at event finals.
It was more of the same at the Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 when Team USA had another fifth-place finish and Mikulak took seventh in the all-around final and fourth on the high bar. Now, the multi-time national champion is looking to finally break through on the biggest international stage in his final year as a competitor.
Here is what you need to know about Mikulak…
1. Mikulak Was Born and Raised in Southern California
The son of Stephen and Tina Mikulak, the three-time Olympian was born in Corona del Mar, California in 1992. He was joined 16 months later by his younger sister, Alexandra. Mikulak’s father is an orthopedic surgeon by trade, but both of his parents were gymnasts. So, the children got their starts in the sport at very young ages.
Sam was just two years old when he took his first steps on the path to becoming an elite, international gymnast. However, his sister ultimately opted out of being a gymnast.
Mikulak attended Corona del Mar High School.
2. He Anchored the Michigan Wolverines Men’s Gymnastic Squad
In 2011, Mikulak began his run as a member of the Michigan Wolverines. And what it a run it would turn out to be.
As a frosh, he captured the NCAA individual all-around championship by posting a career-high score of 90.75. He also picked up All-American honors and was named the Big Ten Conference’s Gymnast of the Year.
It was more of the same in year two, when he won conference titles on high bar and pommel horse while placing second in the all-around. His junior year was another banner effort, as he led the Wolverines to an NCAA team title and also won the individual all-around, parallel bars and high bar championships.
As a senior, he repeated his NCAA title efforts in the all-around and high bar. He also captured a second-straight team title.
3. A Devastating Injury Threatened to Cost Him His First Olympics
A year before the 2012 US Olympic Trials, Mikulak broke both of his ankles while performing his floor routine during the Puerto Rico Cup in Mayaguez. MGoBlue.com painted a horrifying picture of the scene:
“The snap was so loud fellow competitors and fans could hear the break, but trainers told him his ankle bones hit each other creating the noise.”
Amazingly, he finished the competition, but both ankles would require multiple weeks of healing time. Then, at the Trials, Mikulak landed awkwardly on the vault during the preliminaries and sprained an ankle. In spite of the setback, he performed just well enough to capture a spot on the five-man Olympic gymnastics team for the London Games.
Mikulak later described the whole experience as a learning moment, telling Nick McCarvel, “It’s about being able to know that things aren’t always going to go your way and you have to make the best of it. I’m learning still.”
Years later, he suffered a torn Achilles tendon as well.
4. Mikulak Has Been Making a Splash on the Scene for a While Now
Given that the Tokyo Games will be his third Olympics, Mikulak likely knows what to expect in the competition. But his Olympic exploits are just the tip of the iceberg as relates to his gymnastics career.
In total, Mikulak has captured 18 medals at international competitions. At the 2012 Pacific Rim Championships in Everett, Washington, he captured a gold medal in the team competition and added an all-around silver, silvers on vault and horizontal bar and bronze medals on the pommel horse and parallel bars.
He was even better at the 2018 competition in Medellin, Colombia, winning golds in the team competition, the individual all-around, rings and the horizontal bar. He earned silvers on the floor exercise and pommel horse.
Between the two events, he captured two golds and two bronzes at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
Mikulak is also a two-time medalist at World Championship events, capturing a team bronze at the 2014 competition in Nanning, China and an individual bronze on horizontal bar at the 2018 event in Doha, Qatar.
5. He Co-Founded an Herbal Tea Company With his Friends
Although the company doesn’t appear to be actively operating, Mikulak once co-founded an herbal tea brand known as MatéBros with two of his gymnast friends, Jordan Gaarenstroom and Alex Anunciation. In the beginning, the trio gathered for what was described as a “Mate sesh,” as told via Mate Over Matter.
Apparently, the session was a success, because they started brewing Yerba Mate at home shortly thereafter. Along the way, they began to experiment with different formulas and flavors. Eventually, the trio capitalized on Mikulak’s fame from making the 2012 Olympic squad by launching their own company.