Cal recruits senior for gymnastics

October 27, 2017 — by Patrick Li

Senior Kyle Abe began participating in gymnastics even before he started attending elementary school.

He was good at it and loved it, and since then has put in thousands of hours in the gym.

All this hard work paid off recently when he was offered multiple Division 1 scholarships from top tier gymnastics schools like the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (ranked 4th nationally) and the University of Minnesota (ranked 5th nationally). In the end, Abe chose to attend the University of California, Berkeley.

Abe began gymnastics at just the age of 3, but became more serious about it when he was 5 years old.

“I started doing gymnastics because I was a really energetic kid, and my parents didn’t know what do with me so they just put me in a gymnastics class,” said Abe, the son of history teacher Kirk Abe.

The younger Abe attributes much of his success to his coach, Scott Burns, who is part of the private gymnastics club known as California Sports Center, as well as his own self-motivation.

“My coach helped me get this far, but I mostly pushed myself because I really wanted to get in this position,” Abe said.

His training regiment is intense, to say the least. Abe practices three and a half hours every day except Sundays. On top of that, he still has to keep up his grades and tries to maintain a social life.

Throughout his career, Abe has been to so many competitions that he recalls most of it as just a “blur.” He estimates it to be more than 30 gymnastics events.

Perhaps his most vivid memory was this year’s nationals, where he received second place in the vault.

“I was really mad that I didn’t get first,” Abe said. “I lost by a tenth of a point because I fell on an easy routine that I knew I could have aced.”

Abe didn’t realize he could go so far in gymnastics until last year when he qualified for the Junior Elite Program, an extremely selective training program aimed at preparing athletes to represent the U.S. in national competitions.

“I was pretty happy that I made this program. I was in the upper half of my group so that was good too,” Abe said.

He eventually captured the attention of top-tier colleges, and several of their coaches reached out to him.

“I had a personal meeting with the Berkeley coach, talked over the phone with the University of Minnesota coach and talked over email with the University of Illinois coach,” Abe said.

But after attending a three-day camp with other Cal gymnasts this past summer, he decided to select Berkeley as his home for the next four years.

These sorts of camps serve as recruitment platforms for potential college-level athletes. During the camps, the coaches at the university intently watch to determine if the prospective student athlete is skilled enough to make the team.

This Berkley camp introduced Abe to college-level competition and rules.

“The rules are tighter, the routines are more complicated, and the judges grade harsher,” Abe said.

One reason he chose to attend Berkeley was the strong bond he formed with the team’s coach, J.T. Okada.

“The coach knew what he was doing and we really clicked at the camp,” Abe said. “When he was coaching me, I really understood all the tips he gave me.”

Abe also wanted to attend Berkeley because he wants to stay closer to home.

It also didn’t hurt that Berkeley’s gymnastics program has propelled multiple gymnasts to the Olympics and on several world teams. Abe believes it would be beneficial for him to be around an environment with so many top athletes.

“Hopefully, I can place in an event in NCAA,” Abe said. “The Olympics may be a little too far down the line right now, but maybe.”