Incoming freshman Michael LaRochelle is setting his eye on an incredible goal: competing in gymnastics at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. LaRochelle, who is the third member of his family to attend Christendom College, plans on double-majoring in philosophy and mathematics, two subjects that should help perfect his knowledge of the sport.
“Not only is there a ton of math in gymnastics, there’s philosophy, too. I see a lot of coaches …forget that gymnastics is a spectator sport, and so they try to cram in all these skills that are worth a lot and have a lot of star value, but they don’t do them very well because they’re hard. So they get a lot of deductions because it doesn’t look very good, which isn’t the point of gymnastics. The point of gymnastics is to do something well,” said LaRochelle, in an article for the Napa Valley Register.
A native of Napa, Ca., LaRochelle has been competing in gymnastics since the age of ten, earning trips to the National Junior Olympic Championships the past two years. This past May, LaRochelle made it to the finals in the still rings competition, placing eighteenth in the entire nation on the rings.
His excellence on the mats is not to be outdone by his excellence in the classroom as well, with LaRochelle being honored as an Academic All-American at the National Championships and graduating high school with a cumulative GPA of 3.7.
When he arrives at Christendom’s campus this August, LaRochelle will follow in the footsteps of two siblings: fellow gymnast Sean, who graduated from Christendom in 2014, and rising junior Nicole, who competed on Christendom’s soccer team her freshman year until sustaining an injury.
Even though he will not be able to compete as much in gymnastics while at Christendom — only sixteen colleges in the United States have a men’s gymnastics team — LaRochelle did not hesitate in choosing Christendom for his college career, both for its liberal arts education and for its vibrant community as well.
“I [visited Christendom two years ago] for about a week, and I would say I made more friends during that stay then I have since I moved [to Napa]…because of the amount of time spent with a large group of people. In April, I got a call from the head resident assistant and he asked if I wanted to room with him,” says LaRochelle.
LaRochelle plans to continue practicing at a nearby gymnastics club while studying at Christendom, training both his body and his mind for his ultimate goal in Tokyo. While very few gymnasts are strong at all six gymnastic events, according to LaRochelle, he is currently training to compete in all six — giving him an edge when he tries to qualify for the Olympics.