Every day is competition day for rising Stanford sophomore and U.S. Men’s National Team member Khoi Young. At least, that’s how he feels when he walks into practice.
Being part of a program that has won the last three NCAA Championships and features National Team members, FIG World Cup medalists and even an Olympian in senior Brody Malone, Young has to constantly give 110%.
"You don’t have time to be complacent," he stated. "It’s like everywhere you look, you see someone improving. Everywhere you look, you see someone that could be better than you in a year or someone that is better than you right now."
The competitive atmosphere is not the only thing that has drawn Young into gymnastics. He truly appreciates the respect and camaraderie between each athlete in the gym.
"We all have a love for the sport which really radiates within the community," he says. "We love seeing each other do well; we love competing against each other [in] friendly competitions. And I think that’s one of the best parts. It’s competitive, but at the end of the day we’re all brothers."
That sense of kinship and the constant drive to be as good as he can possibly be, it’s one of Young’s biggest motivators.
"Every time I step on the floor, I want to do my very best. I want to show that I’m really trying to fulfill my potential as best as I can," he said.
Gymnastics wasn’t always his first choice. Young participated in many sports throughout his childhood including swimming, soccer and even karate. He enjoyed them all thoroughly, finding it hard to pick his favorite.
But when his parents were approached by a coach in the gym about his talent, Young realized that it might be the route for him.
"I had to make the tough decision to drop everything else I was doing, but I stuck with gymnastics," he said.
And the rest was history. Young made the USA Gymnastics Junior National Team in 2018 and was selected to the Senior National Team earlier this year. His career has taken off in that time, and he continues to add to his growing resume of domestic and international accolades and accomplishments.
He was the U.S. junior pommel horse champion in 2018 and successfully defended his title in 2019. Young also clinched gold on pommel horse and earned silver in the all-around and on parallel bars at the 2019 Men’s Development Program National Championships, formerly known as the Junior Olympic Nationals.
So far, 2022 has been a breakout year for Young. After a standout performance at the 2022 Winter Cup in Frisco, Texas, in February to win pommel horse gold and all-around and vault silver, he was called into international action at the 2022 DTB Pokal Cup in Stuttgart, Germany in March. Young topped the podium for pommel horse and vault, showing the world that he’s determined to excel.
His achievements in Germany gave birth to a new superstition involving a certain pair of gloves.
"I actually have a really great story about this," Young laughed. "I was on pommel horse final and my hands were cold. I asked my teammate, Brody [Malone], who’s an Olympian, ‘Do you have any gloves I could borrow?’ He said sure and gave me these huge camo hunting gloves."
Young noted that they weren’t exactly his style but upon taking them off, he performed the best routine of his career. His gold medal at the competition can attest to that.
"I gave them back and said, ‘whatever you did to ’em, thank you, because I just did the best routine of my life.’"
Young used the gloves again at the 2022 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships in Norman, Oklahoma, where he helped Stanford claim the championship title for the third-consecutive year. Once again, he turned in one of his best-ever performances on pommel horse.
After that, Malone gave him the gloves to keep indefinitely.
As a member of Team USA, Young is still adjusting to the spotlight. Up-and-coming gymnasts all over the nation are watching him and hoping to follow in his footsteps.
The fact that he has an opportunity to be a role model to others is not lost on him. It’s something Young considers when he thinks of the athletes he looked up to, such as 2008 Olympic silver medalist Jonathan Horton, two-time Olympian Jake Dalton and six-time NCAA champion Steven Legendre.
"They were such a huge inspiration and huge role models for me that it’s unbelievable that I’m almost at the point of where I can see myself being that for someone else," he said.
© John Cheng
Young is gaining particular attention from fans and fellow gymnasts on pommel horse, where he is one of a number of U.S. athletes, including reigning World champion Stephen Nedoroscik and 2020 Olympic finalist Alec Yoder, who have found success on the apparatus in recent years.
"I’ve loved horse mainly because everyone tries to run away from it," he remarked. "Seeing Stephen and Alec do what they do, what they have done over the past few years, it’s really motivated me because it shows that if we want to be a pommel horse country, we really can."
To be on equal standing with the top pommel horse gymnasts in the country is a level of excellence Young strives to achieve.
"I want to be a part of these accolades that Alec and Stephen are adding up," he declared. "So, the next two to three years, I’m hoping to have my name in those conversations."
For now, Young has his sights set on the U.S. Classic, July 28-31 in Salt Lake City. Having already qualified to the OOFOS U.S. Gymnastics Championships in August, he plans to test out some of his riskier skills at this competition and turn a keen eye to his technique.
"The goal is really to push difficulty," he said. "Throwing the big routines, really show off the crazy skills that you’ve been working, and that’s how I’m approaching it."
Young plans to finish this season strong, just as he started it, laying out the many goals he has for himself leading into 2023.
"Number one, I want to be healthy," he said. "[For] Championships, my goal is to be top three in all-around."
Young’s aspirations aren’t limited to individual competitions, it is clear that he’s always aiming higher. "My goal is to make [the] World [Championships] team and make National Team again."
Fans can watch Young take on some of the best gymnasts in the country at the U.S. Classic July 31 in Salt Lake Valley, Utah. The competition will air live at 3 p.m. ET on CNBC.