Assistant Sports Editor
As a child, athletes dream of making it to the next level, wanting to play their sport professionally. Every four years, children realize they want to compete in the Olympics. For senior health science major Chris Graff those Olympic dreams are still in sight.
“Right now I’m on the national team for Colombia. Hopefully I can qualify for Word Championships, and hopefully if my body holds up, the 2020 Olympics,” said Graff.
Compared to his teammates, Graff picked up gymnastics late. After playing hockey for most of his early childhood, Graff switched to gymnastics when he was 10 years old.
“I would always flip in the basement so my parents wanted me to be safe so they put me in gymnastics and my dad was a gymnast back in the day. It kind of influenced me to follow in his footsteps. I tried it and I fell in love with it,” said Graff
Graff’s first experience under the spotlights in Blake Arena was during his freshman year at Springfield’s annual Home Show.
“It’s an experience you can’t describe, being in that environment and just seeing how much pride and support you get from the college and the outsiders going in there and just watching you and what you have,” said Graff.
With only 16 NCAA men’s gymnastics programs in the country it can be hard to even make it to this level and appear in an event like Home Show, but Graff had already dedicated so much life to his sport he knew he couldn’t give it up.
“I didn’t want to be done with it because we always practice and it’s our life for years and you just don’t want to be done with that,” said Graff. “I’ve always dreamed of being [in] college and just having that opportunity with all the big names and all the big schools, I always looked up to that when I was little and first started.”
When Graff arrived on campus he was shocked, but after doing well his freshman season the health science major gained confidence. The now senior competes as an all-around gymnast, on the pommel horse,rings, parrel bars,horizontal bars, vault and floor exercises.
“It’s a lot of tough training six events every weekend is a lot. It takes a lot of coaching staff to train them and manage them but you have to have the personality to do it and that’s something Chris definitely has,” said head coach Mike Davis.
On top of earning multiple ECAC Men’s Gymnast of the week awards and being one of the top gymnasts at Springfield Graff competes internationally.
“It’s another experience that I’m fortunate and grateful to have, my mom is from Colombia so I have dual-citizenship. I get to have that opportunity so every May I’ll leave school early to go and compete down there,” said Graff. “From there if you do well you get selected for the national team, and I was fortunate enough to get selected last year so they just bring you to international meets, like Bolivia, Italy and all over the place.”
While competing on the world stage Graff finished fourth on the pommel horse and rings and seventh on the floor.
While Graff competes internationally some of the rules and scoring systems are different. While competing for Colombia, Graff has to perform dismounts that are harder than the ones he needs to do for the NCAA. Aside from the different regulations Graff has a different team dynamic.
“Collegiately you have your team behind you and it’s something that’s phenomenal. When I compete for Colombia it’s not the same feeling. It’s more individualized rather than in college,” said Graff.
Competing internationally has allowed Graff to see the different ways that the top gymnast train in the world train, which has changed his confidence in while at practice and competing.
“You see a lot of collegiate athletes throughout the year and then there is a whole nother side of gymnastics that’s international as well.I think having that experience for Chris has helped him even more in the gym, you see a lot more confidence in himself and seeing some of these other top athletes in the World is something that makes him more believe that he can achieve all of his goals he has. It’s a great opportunity for him to represent him and Springfield College on an international scale,” said Davis.
Like many gymnasts, Graff doesn’t have an off season, and when he is on breaks he is in the gym working on new moves.
“Over the past summer he was training for them and made their national team and came to school and we start training again, so he doesn’t really have that off time and it’s something that the coaching staff is aware of so there are days that we make sure it’s easier for him because the sport is so demanding on your body even mentally,” said Davis.
Along with being one of the top gymnasts, Graff has served as a captain for the team for two seasons.
“The first thing I do in the season is we have individual goals for athletes and also team goals and he’s someone that works towards the team goals and helps push the athletes for their individual ones with the workout,” said Davis. “He’s very vocal so he’ll reach out to any athlete that needs help and help them achieve those goals.”
With the second half of his senior season still left Graff is trying to take it all in, but he doesn’t want to be done competing and training after he graduates.
“He has some big goals on their national team and a possibility of [making] the Olympics with them 2020 is something that he’s talked about,” said Davis. “I think is a definite possibility.”