A year ago, Sam Mikulak was dealt a major setback in his quest to reach the London Olympics as a gymnast.
He always had dreams of reaching the Olympics while growing up in Newport Beach and training at SCATS Gymnastics in Huntington Beach.
But that dream seemed out of reach, at least for 2012, when he broke both ankles on a floor dismount during the Puerto Rico Cup last August.
The floor apparatus is the first event of the competition, but Mikulak continued to compete. It wasn't until after the competition when he was told both ankles were broken.
Mikulak said the injury forced him to focus on the pommel horse and rings, two skills that had been his weaknesses. It wasn't until December when his ankles started to feel stronger. But he said he did suffer a few sprains on dismounts, which led him to heavily tape his ankles.
Now he's on the brink of making the U.S. Olympics men's gymnastics team. In a breakout-type performance, he finished third at the Visa Men's Senior U.S. Championships, completed June 9 in St. Louis, Mo.
"[The ankle fractures] made my weakest events stronger," Mikulak said during a phone interview Thursday. "I broke both ankles and I still competed through that whole competition. They were amazed that I still kept going. It makes for a good story now."
The story will only become better if he makes the Olympic team after competing in the Olympic Trials June 28 through July 1 in San Jose.
The son of two gymnasts who competed at UC Berkeley, Mikulak was introduced to the sport at the young age of 2. The Olympic dreams began not too long after that. He played soccer and baseball, but stopped competitively when he reached middle school at Corona del Mar after finishing up at Newport Coast Elementary.
Now he realizes how close he is to making his dreams come true.
"I'm anxious for it all to happen," Mikulak said. "I've been dreaming for this moment for so long. I just want to go out there and get it done. I want to stay focused and keep a level head and put on a show at Olympic Trials."
Mikulak answered a few questions from the Daily Pilot during a break from his training Thursday.
Question: A story in the Los Angeles Times said you had several friend requests on Facebook. What's that been like? How many friends did you add?
Answer: I kind of had my friend requests blowing up. It was like everyone wanted me to add them. People were sending me messages. I had a bunch of encouragement. It's been really great. I remember we signed autographs after the [national championships]. It was just a real cool moment to be in the spotlight. I hope I can continue that and make everyone proud.
I did add some people who were from mutual friends. I had some people send me messages and tell me that they were big fans. I would say, 'you seem down to earth," and I would add them.
Question: What about Twitter? Do you use Twitter?
Answer: Yes, I'm on Twitter and I've gotten so many followers. There have been girls fighting over me, and it gets pretty brutal on there. It's just funny to see. The attention is pretty nice. I'm not going to go hunting them down for a girlfriend. But I feel like a little kid again.
Question: Do you have a girlfriend?