Stephen Nedoroscik never did feel fully prepared before the World Championships last weekend.
He picked up a nasty cold at home at Penn State and was sick for eight days, he recalled, drinking tea, taking vitamin C and a mix of cough and cold medications to get over it.
Nedoroscik needed to be fever-free for a 48-hour window before he could head to Japan. He made that window by a hair, he said, but still, he was five days late to Japan and missed an important training day.
Even after the stress of getting sick, feeling “terrified” that the combination of the cold and his asthma would affect his performance, Nedoroscik netted the United State’s first gold in pommel horse on Oct. 23 at the 2021 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Kitakyushu, Japan.
The success all came down to believing in himself, Nedoroscik, a Worcester native, told MassLive.
“I believe in myself a lot and I think that’s part of my formula when it comes to competitions,” said Nedoroscik, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Thursday. “I just really believe in myself, and I understand that I’ve done all the work inside the gym and when I get to a competition, at that point I don’t have to stress. I just have to relax and enjoy the moment.”
Now back home from Japan, the magnitude of the win is settling in for Nedoroscik.
“I wake up in the morning and my first thought is ‘where the heck am I’ and then it’s like ‘oh my gosh, I’m back home and I’m not in Japan anymore. Also, I’m a world champion,’” he said. “Every time I remember it, it’s just like cloud nine immediately.”
Nedoroscik, who graduated from Worcester Tech in 2016, is only the third American to medal on pommel horse at World Championships, joining Kurt Thomas’ silver in 1979 and Alexander Artemev’s bronze in 2006, according to USA Gymnastics.
Pommel horse is gymnastics equipment for swinging and balancing feats. Nedoroscik’s parents enrolled him in gymnastics at 4 and a half years old, he said, because he was an active baby who would climb on everything.
“I would climb, scare the babysitters,” said Nedoroscik, who quit gymnastics for a month at age 8 but rejoined and never looked back.
Nedoroscik said he loves the grind of the sport. Last year, he placed first at the Melbourne World Cup in Melbourne, Australia.
“You’re making these minuscule improvements every day over months and months,” he said. “I just really love the journey of getting better and better.”
These days, Nedoroscik only makes it back to Worcester around Christmas, he said, maybe twice a year if he’s lucky. He grew up around Indian Lake.
Michael Meagher, Worcester Tech’s robotics and automation technology department head, said he had no idea Nedoroscik was an award-winning gymnast when he was in his class.
One day, another student told Meagher to ask Nedoroscik what he had done over the weekend, the teacher recalled. That’s when he found out Nedoroscik had just won junior nationals.
He was “one of the most unassuming individuals you’ll ever meet,” Meagher said. “You would never know that this young man was doing gymnastics at the level that he was.”
To this day, Meagher still keeps some of Nedoroscik’s class projects on display, and Nedoroscik tries to visit the high school during visits home.
“He uses my old projects from when I was in high school to demonstrate things to the kids and he’ll tell them this is the guy that built that circuit and did this project,” Nedoroscik said. “It’s really nice to talk to them and kind of let them know that what they’re doing in that shop is really going to help them.”
Meagher remembered that Nedoroscik was a whiz with a Rubix cube. You could give it to him all twisted up and he’d solve it, aligning all the colors, about 20 seconds later, Meagher recalled.
Nedoroscik said he recently got back into Rubix cubes and now has a new all-time record: 12.81 seconds.
“Determined, driven, confident but quiet. He was quietly confident. He knew what he was doing, every once in a while you needed to give him a push,” Meagher said. “There wasn’t a challenge he couldn’t meet.”
Nine months ago, Nedoroscik got his degree in electrical engineering. But dreams of following that career path are on hold.
“I’m going to be a gymnast as long as I can while I’m in my prime,” Nedoroscik said. “You can be an electrical engineer forever, but you can’t be a gymnast forever.”
For kids in Worcester who dream of being a world champion someday, Nedoroscik’s advice is to believe in yourself, the exact mindset that’s propelled him to championships.
“I think that if you have a determined mindset on anything in life and you’re always going put the extra mile in, you’re going to work your butt off for it, that’s all that’s really going to matter is how much you put in,” he said. “Just believe in yourself and do everything you can and you can achieve anything.”
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