Golder's journey turns golden with Mikulak
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By WILL GRAVES,
Updated July 1, 2012
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Kurt Golder decided when he was 16 that he wanted to make it to the Olympics.
It just took him a little longer than he expected.
The University of Michigan coach, now 57, will be in London as coach for Sam Mikulak, who made the men's U.S. Olympic gymnastics team on Sunday. Coaching an Olympian was the only hole in a resume that includes two national championships with the Wolverines and dozens of All-Americans.
When Mikulak and his coach embraced after the announcement, Golder told his budding star "thank you." And Golder is positive it shouldn't have been the other way around.
"It's been my lifelong dream of mine to produce as U.S. Olympian and I've been very close on a couple of occasions," Golder said. "And for me to be able to achieve it, who else would I thank?"
Golder took over a struggling Michigan program in 1997 and immediately turned it around. The Wolverines won a national title in 1999 thanks to Golder's aggressive recruiting. He has continued to bring top gymnasts to Ann Arbor, including Mikulak.
The laid-back kid from Corona Del Mar in southern California was a throw-in during a recruiting trip to Michigan three years ago. Considering both of Mikulak's parents were gymnasts at California, most coaches figured making a hard sell was useless.
Not Golder, though he didn't really press Mikulak, instead letting the campus win him over. Mikulak responded by winning the all-around title at the 2011 NCAA championships while becoming the first male Michigan gymnast to make a U.S. Olympic team. Mikulak likened Golder to a father.
"He's a big teddy bear," Mikulak said. "He'll take a bullet for me. There's no better way that I can repay him for all he's done for me."
Golder won't be the only Alpena, Mich., native heading to London. Longtime friend John Geddert will also be going to the games as the coach of national champion Jordyn Wieber.
HEY SIS: Jordyn Wieber didn't have to look far to find her family this week.
The world champion's older sister, Lindsay, is in medical school and was part of the training staff at the Olympic trials.
"When practice was over and I'd go to the training room, I'd get to see her," Wieber said.
Wieber actually had a big family contingent at trials. In addition to her parents and sister, her brother and younger sister were here, as were her grandparents.
"It's so exciting for them to be here and be able to watch and share the experience," she said.
NICE SOUVENIR: John Orozco is going to have to do some souvenir shopping.
The U.S. champion normally gives his mother the flowers he gets at competitions, and his father gets whatever medals he wins. But Orozco didn't get flowers or a medal after being named to the U.S. Olympic team Saturday, so he's hoping to save up his money and get his parents a new computer.
"They have a really old computer at home, and I can't Skype with them," said the Bronx native, who now trains in Colorado Springs, Colo. "If I get the money, I want to buy them a MacBook Air with a printer."
Orozco grew up in a tough neighborhood, and his parents sacrificed to make sure their kids stayed out of trouble and could have a better life. When Orozco got into gymnastics, his parents would drive him 45 minutes each way to a gym in the leafy town of Chappaqua, N.Y., making the trip twice a day when he got older.
They made sure at least one of them was with him at every competition, and his mother Damaris made it to both the U.S. championships and Olympic trials despite having recently spent 10 days in the hospital with a uterine infection that had spread to her stomach.
"I just want to get them something nice," Orozco said. "They do a lot of nice things for me."
AMERICAN ANTHEM 2?: Jake Dalton can admit it, his dream of becoming an Olympian didn't come from watching the games on TV.
Instead, it came from Hollywood.
The 20-year-old reigning NCAA champion was in elementary school when he saw "American Anthem" for the first time. The 1986 flick starred four-time Olympic medalist Mitch Gaylord as a talented gymnast gone rogue.
"I used to watch it all the time when I was a little kid," he said. "It just remember watching it and really enjoying that movie. He's using dirt bikes, but he's also doing gymnastics out in the forest. Just a really cool movie when I was young.
AP National Writer Nancy Armour contributed to this report.