“Failure is pretty much expected in the sport. There’s no two ways about it. In order to get every skill in your routine, you have to try it a million times before you actually get it,” says Shane Wiskus. “It’s really those meets at the end of your competitive season when you’ve gone to multiple competitions and you’ve learned from those failures, is where things start to finally fall in place. So I think a lot of gymnasts are quite comfortable with failure. The problem is that when you fail after a full season of getting your bearings underneath you, that’s when the pressure can really start to mount in your head.” Wiskus, a heralded collegiate gymnast who represented the United States at the 2020 Summer Olympics, is the subject of Losing Grip, a documentary about the decline of men’s collegiate gymnastics told through the lens of Wiskus’ athletic career. The documentary is directed by Steven Nye, a longtime friend of Wiskus who grew up training in gymnastics in the same home gym back in Minnesota. Although Nye eventually stopped competing in high school, he never left the sport. “I’m a little bit older than Steven, so when I was around level nine or ten, Steven was still just getting into the optional routine side. We were separated but he started doing a lot of video work in the gym and then more and more we started becoming friends,” says Wiskus. “I later moved to a new gym, but he stuck around, taking footage of people, and eventually doing social media for my college team at Minnesota. He was right there for the beginning, all throughout college, through COVID, and finally the Olympics.”

Photography by Wes Roberts

“Because I knew that I couldn’t actually travel to the Olympics with all the COVID stuff, and Shane’s parents couldn’t even go, the Olympic trials became the climax of the film,” says Nye. “I had archival footage that starts from 2015 and continues to around 2020 and then the majority of the interviews were shot in the summer of 2021, leading up to and after the Olympic Games. To be there in the stands and to actually hear Shane’s name be called to be selected onto the team, was just such a pivotal moment of him achieving this monumental goal.”