What a difference a year makes for out University of Nebraska gymnast Samuel Phillips.
A year ago, he was sidelined from competition with an injury and could only root on his Cornhuskers teammates from the bench. But he enters this season, which starts Saturday, on a major high after winning the high bar at a men’s gymnastics All-Star meet last month.
Phillips won the high bar at the second annual CGA All-Stars meet, a 16-school event with two dozen gymnasts divided into two teams, considered a kickoff to the collegiate men’s season.
“Coming back from my injury last year has been hard, so it was a great way to open the door to what I hope to be an exciting season,” Phillips told Outsports about his win at the CGA meet.
“I have grown so much in my gymnastics and mentally, and I think I’m coming into this season with a newfound purpose and mentality. I am healthy, feeling great and ready to compete, so that’s exactly all I need to do this year — show up, compete and have some fun.”
Phillips, who identifies as bisexual, discussed in a campus interview during last year’s Pride Month how as the “only out male athlete at Nebraska, it’s lonely and isolating at times.” He is determined to be a voice for others who are also struggling with their sexuality.
“I choose to be a lighthouse for those younger than me but also those next to me who aren’t ready to come out and live their lives on this lit-up stage,” he said in the interview.
“So yes, being a positive role model is so important in this way. It’s representation, and it’s a signal that it’s OK to be yourself. It’s OK to step into these spaces being as authentically you as you can be.”
On the mat, Phillips competes as an all-around gymnast and will focus on four to five individual events.
“I’m pushing the bar on my difficulties and really honing in on my execution and fine tuning as well,” he told Outsports, “so it should be a great balance of doing big gymnastics while looking the most polished I’ve ever felt.”