Triple Threat: Kameron Nelson

Inside: You made the senior National Team for the first time in 2023. Did that change your perspective on what was possible for your gymnastics? 

Nelson: As a junior, making National Team wasn’t something I thought I could do, but after (2023) Winter Cup first day, seeing how close I was, then after making it on second day, it was like a totally different reality for me. It’s pushed me to want to work for bigger things that I didn’t think I was going to be capable of. Now, I’m trying to make a push for Olympic Trials, maybe an individual Worlds spot. It’s been a huge belief thing for me.

This year my focus is on, first, making National Team, then hopefully Olympic Trials, and maybe get an international assignment—compete more outside the U.S., which would be exciting. And, of course, that all starts by doing well the rest of the NCAA season.

NCAA and USA are both equally important to me. I try to focus my mindset completely on NCAA and the team when we’re in season, but then I need to start shifting my focus for individual competition.

Inside: You train, and have competed, the all-around for Ohio State. Does it bother you when people see you as a floor or vault specialist when you’re doing all six?

Nelson: I originally saw myself as a floor specialist. I didn’t think I was very good at vault, but that’s kind of changed now. 

I’m starting to see myself more as floor, vault, rings and p-bars is in there sometimes. The other events are coming along, but I admit I sometimes feel like I’m just getting those out of the way.

I’m glad that people know me for something, so I don’t really care too much that the events I’m good at are what people know me for. It just makes me want to work harder to show them what else I have to offer.

Inside: You won the vault title at both U.S. Championships and Winter Cup in 2023, which seems like the opposite of ‘not very good.’

Nelson: Well, I was the only one who did two vaults, but, yeah, once I switched my vault to handspring that event was a different story.

I twist two different ways. I learned round-off one way and twisting the other way. So, I can’t do a Kas entry, like most people do on vault. I do a full round-off and then switch directions to twist off the table. I’ve always done it like that. It doesn’t bother me, but it does mean it’s not as easy for me to get as many twists in.

I tried to address it my freshman year. Cas really wanted me to switch my cartwheel direction, but I could never get a good block that way. I tried switching my twisting direction, and keeping the same round-off, but just never felt confident doing that. So, moving to the handspring just made sense for me.

Inside: How did you first get started in the sport?

Nelson: I started when I was six and we were living in Louisiana. It’s the same story of every other gymnast: I was bouncing on the couch, turning upside down, just running around crazy. My mom was a Level 10 gymnast and she’s been a coach, so she’s the one who put me in the sport.

I did gymnastics for about a year and a half, competing levels 4 and 5, before we moved. My family was in the military, so we’ve moved around so many times—I’ve lived in, like, 17 different houses—so it was another 2-3 years before I got back in the gym. I started again when I was 10-11 and living in Georgia. That’s when I started being coached by Dan Hayden. I tried other sports—hockey, football, akido—but none of them were as interesting to me as gymnastics. 

Inside: What made you choose Ohio State?

Nelson: I’ve known Cas since I was seven years old, when he was working in Florida. I went to a camp there and I’ve always liked him as a coach. When he and Sean Melton went to Ohio State, that was what I wanted to do, too. 

As a senior in high school, I didn’t have a lot of options. Not many colleges were interested in me, including Ohio State. I came here as a walk-on, without any scholarship, with the feeling that I needed to prove myself. I had that little chip on my shoulder—like, maybe not enough people believed in me, but I’d show them. Looking back now, as a junior gymnast, I think you do sort of tend to over-value yourself a little bit, but it worked out, as I earned a scholarship by my sophomore year.

And, I am planning to take my fifth year, so I’m not done yet.

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