Andrew Rickly finished third on the rings during the P&G Championships Aug. 15-18 in Hartford, Conn. (photo by John Cheng)
Andrew Rickly doesn’t remember having that driving ambition to compete in the Olympics when he was growing up. However, the Lewis Center resident has been working to put his name on the short list for the U.S. men’s gymnastics team. Rickly was one of the seven gymnasts and the only Ohio native to qualify for the U.S. Senior Development team after a solid performance at the P&G Championships Aug. 15-18 in Hartford, Conn. The Worthington Christian graduate and Ohio State freshman placed second in the all around with 163.6 points behind Dmitri Belanovski (164.8). “It’s been a dream in development,” Rickly says. “Early on I would’ve never seen that in my future. I just did gymnastics because I enjoyed it. But hard work and great coaching has taken me further than I thought I could go. That (dream of making the Olympic team) keeps me pushing harder and harder every day.” At the P&G Championships, Rickly was first on the high bar, scoring a 13.95 on the first day and a 14.2 on the second day to score 28.15 points and finish ahead of the University of Illinois’ Chandler Eggleston (27.45). Rickly was also the runner-up on the floor exercise, tied for second on the parallel bars, finished third on still rings and fourth on the pommel horse. Rickly had been disappointed with some of his performances on high bar in the meets leading up to the P&G championships but everything came together at the meet. “The past couple of competitions, I had the potential to put up a big score and possibly win but I made some uncharacteristic mistakes,” he says. “I did what I needed to do to avoid making those mistakes. I always pray before every event to get that little bit of confidence. I went out, and found the desire to make it happen.” Rickly’s immediate future is focused on competing for Ohio State. The Buckeyes have proven to be a major breeding ground for Olympian gymnasts. Ohio State has placed four athletes on the U.S. Gymnastics team since 1996 including Raj Bhavsar (2004, 2008), Jamie Natalie (2000), Kip Simons (1996) and Blaine Wilson (1996, 2000 and 2004). A couple of athletes with Ohio State ties could be vying with Rickly to make the U.S. team. Former Ohio State gymnast Brandon Wynn earned a bronze medal at the World Gymnastics Championships Oct. 5 in Antwerp, Belgium. Buckeye teammate Jacob Dastrup, a Lindon, Utah native, joined Rickly on the U.S. Senior Development team. “Right now, my primary focus is to be a part of the Ohio State men’s gymnastics team and compete on a collegiate level,” Rickly says. However, don’t count the Buckeye freshman out for the 2016 Games. His mother Sandy Rickly says her son was a born fighter. To understand how far Rickly has come, all one has to do is look at his parents’ photo album or examine the T shaped scar on his stomach. Rickly was born on March 18, 1995 with an obstructed bowel. He spent his first two months at Nationwide Children’s Hospital with a series of tubes surrounding his body. “If he would’ve been born 30 years ago, Andrew probably wouldn’t have made it,” Sandy says. “Every time Andrew would get a little stomach bug, we had to run to the emergency room because we didn’t know if it was blockage again or scar tissue. It was so complicated.” “(The T-shaped scar) has always been a conversation piece,” Andrew says with a laugh. “Some people ask if I’ve had twins because it looks like a C section scar. I’m really used to it but every so often I’ll look down and see it. It reminds me how thankful I am to have the life I do.” Much of Andrew’s life has revolved around gymnastics practice. When he was three, he followed his older siblings Jill Storey and Matt Rickly to Buckeye Gymnastics in Columbus. Coaches there quickly spotted Andrew’s potential and soon he began taking private lessons. His older brother and sister developed other interests. Jill was a state qualifier in gymnastics (2005 and 2006) and in diving (2007 and 2008) for Worthington Christian and was a dance major at Ohio State. Matt played basketball and boys soccer for the Warriors, guiding Worthington Christian to the 2011 Division III state title. Andrew gave up all other sports for gymnastics. For 11 years, he trained year round with the Hocking Valley Gymnastics Center in Lancaster. Six days a week. Four hours a day. Sandy describes it as almost having a 36-hour a week job. “Even as I say it, I think ‘Did we really do that?’” Sandy says. “Andrew was home schooled through eighth grade which made it a little easier but still it’s an hour drive to Lancaster and an hour back. There’s no break in gymnastics especially if you want to be at the top. Andrew is just super disciplined. I never had to drag him out of bed on a Saturday morning. He knew what he had to do.” Time commitment wasn’t the only thing Andrew had to battle through. Twice he had to battle through stress fractures in his back. In eighth grade, he had stress fractures in L4 and L5 vertebrae, forcing him to wear a hard molded cast for six weeks and spend several months off gymnastics equipment. He returned with a flourish, qualifying for the U.S. Junior National team. Right after his junior year, Rickly sustained another stress fracture in his back and had to battle back to regain his form. He placed ninth in the all-around at the Visa Championships in Saint Paul, Minn. “I thought ‘I’ve been here before,’” Andrew says. “I knew what to expect and I knew how much pain I was going to have to work through. “There were definitely days when you want to quit, you want to stop. I think every athlete in every sport faces that. It’s only after you push through that that you realize it was worth it.”