Hayden Goldstein isn’t one for limitations, and his path through both collegiate and international gymnastics reflects his passion for the unconventional. To him, the sky truly is the limit.
Fans could say the same about Arizona Men’s Gymnastics—the storied team with a new name is described in one word by Hayden as “opportunity.” Now a junior on the team, he’s quick to note how the GymACT atmosphere allows for gymnasts to shine in a team setting while still allowing them to pursue majors that may not be offered in combination with an NCAA program.
The team’s large roster fosters an environment where gymnasts can thrive while studying to work in a range of fields, as they’re not limited to the programs offered by a single institution. He notes that this structure provides chances for athletes who may not have had scholarship opportunities, or who may wish to learn a trade instead. Simply put, “If you want to go work on cars, you can go work on cars. If you want to be a gymnast, you can be a gymnast as well.” This level of flexibility allows Goldstein to get the most out of his gymnastics: traveling across the country to face other GymACT teams and going from first alternate to two-time silver medalist at the Maccabiah Games.
He notes his strategy in the lead up to the Games was to try to stay in shape from nationals in May, get his Kas full competition ready (spoiler alert: he did), and modify his routines to be as clean as possible under FIG scoring. The game plan for achieving those was, in his words, “set after set,” and vaulting to competition landing multiple times a week. He’d trained as hard as he could, aware that equipment availability would vary once arriving in Tel Aviv. In the week of training leading into the competition, he was impressed with how other nations approached routine construction. Though the elements are the same on paper, the ways other teams picked their skills were different from many Americans—going as far as seeing Robert Kirmes’ triple tuck dismount from high bar, who competed as a guest for Team Finland.
During the competition itself, Goldstein shared that the atmosphere was similar to collegiate meets. Local fans cheered for him and his loud personality, and the Americans were within striking distance of the Israeli National Team. The American vault rotation was a highlight of his, putting his earlier troublesome Kas full to his feet. His efforts were good for a silver on the event, between teammates Adam Wooten and Alan Gerdov. As only Americans had put up two vaults, the three were exempt from the two-per-country rule and shared the podium together in a rare sweep.
True to Goldstein’s character, he remarks on Gerdov and Evan Hymanson, “Props to all the Yurchenko guys. You’re running at a stationary object and then turning around at full speed. That’s a no-no for me.” After all is now said and done, Goldstein hopes to qualify again in three years time for the next Maccabiah Games in 2025. Perhaps he’ll try to collect more national team jackets after leaving 2022’s Games with one apiece from Israel and Brazil.
Back in the gym and studying this year, his main focus is to stay in shape and adjust to new GymACT rules. He notes this year has an amazing freshman lineup, and that they’re hungry to contribute no matter the roster size. While he’s the type to stay quiet about his own gymnastics ambitions, he remains hopeful that he’ll be on the half of the roster to travel to Philadelphia in April—eagerly sharing that if he does get to go, he’ll be sure to say hi to his Maccabiah Games coach Jesse Kitzen-Abelson who leads Temple’s men’s GymACT team.
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Article by Peri Goodman
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