Elite and NCAA Gymnast Training Updates—Part 12


Full Twist contributor Anna Rose Johnson recently caught up with some elite, Level 10, and NCAA gymnasts to discuss their training, future goals, and more.

Tracie Ang, Caitlin Atkinson, Hannah Baddick, Simone Biles, Kourtney Chinnery, Katie Cox, Autumn DeHarde, Erika De La Cruz, Nia Dennis, Kennedi Edney, Jazzy Kerber, Nicole Lanouette, Madeleine Larock, Mary-Anne Monckton, and Kristýna Pálešová provided us with thoughtful insights into their training.



Tracie Ang is a top elite artistic gymnast from Malaysia. The 2010 Commonwealth Games competitor unfortunately had to miss the 2014 World Championships due to injuries, but she is already rehabbing. “I have been out from training since [a] few months ago,” Tracie told Full Twist. “I just had my hip surgery [two months ago at] the end of October. For the moment, I’m still under physiotherapy treatment and also rehab. I was told by the doctor that I need six months rehab before I could get back for training. As days [pass], my recovery is progressing and I’m hoping to recover faster than the expectation.”

On the subject of her next competition, Tracie said, “I hope that I can manage to prepare for the nearest competition which is [the 2015] SEA Games. This is the nearest competition and I hope I can make it to the team. [World] Cup would be also added to the list for me to gain more experience.”

Tracie mentioned her long-term goals in gymnastics: “Next year’s World Championship would be a preferable competition as I wish to qualify for 2016’s Rio.”

She added, “To all the Full Twist readers, thank you for reading and your support is kindly appreciated.”



            Caitlin Atkinson is in her junior year competing NCAA artistic gymnastics at Auburn University. In her first year at Auburn in 2013, Caitlin qualified as an individual to the NCAA Championships. “My training along with the team’s training has been going very well!” Caitlin told Full Twist. “As we were getting close to our first meet we were doing a lot of pressure sets, mental work, and have been focusing on the little things. As every team has we have hit some rough patches, but we have passed through and that has made [us] better individually and more importantly as a team. Overall, everyone on the team is settling down and we are all ready… to show off what we have worked all pre-season for.”


Caitlin had a wonderful 2015 season opener, scoring 38.625 in the all-around and 9.875 on vault. She also won the all-around with a 39.500 at a meet against Florida, in addition to winning beam with a 9.925. “My personal goals for the upcoming season are to be a major asset to the team as well as to lead my team by example,” she explained. “My goal is to be able to contribute at every competition, on all four events, and to give it my 100% effort at every meet and every practice. I want to be the best I can, not for my individual achievements, but rather to help my team achieve our goals. Our team goals are to make the night session of SEC’s, beat Alabama (WAR EAGLE), qualify to nationals, and to have a blast and enjoy every moment while doing so.”


On the subject of new skills for this season, Caitlin told us, “I will be debuting a new floor routine that I love showing off and will be very fun for the crowd to get into, which I am very excited about. In this new and improved floor routine I will be debuting a tucked full-in instead of my usual piked full-in on floor. On beam I have been working two dismounts, my old dismount which is a round-off double pike and then I will occasionally be debuting a new dismount, to help rest my body for post-season, a flick-flick 1.5. All my other routines and skills have remained the same, but I have worked on all the minor details to make my gymnastics that much better.”


Not only did Caitlin have an extremely successful Level 10 career prior to college—she went to the Nastia Liukin Cup in 2012—but she also competed in elite gymnastics from 2007-10. “I do not think I will ever return to elite gymnastics, I have so much love for this sport and I am sad to say that in a year in a half it will all be over, but it’s just that time for me to get out into the real world and pursue my career dreams and have a life after gymnastics,” said Caitlin. “Although I will be done with the sport I will always keep up with it and stay involved as much as possible and I’m sure every now and again I will find my way back to the gym to play around because I know I won’t be able to let my love of gymnastics just go away.”


Caitlin added, “I would like to tell readers of Full Twist that no matter what [you] believe, that with hard work and dedication, your dreams and goals can be achieved. I don’t say this is [in] a cliché way, but rather I have experienced myself in many ways such as gymnastics and academics. No matter what your goal is I believe that if you work hard enough and give it time you will reach your goals as well as speed past them! War Eagle!”



Hannah Baddick is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from Frederick Gymnastics Club in Maryland. At the 2014 Level 9 Eastern Championships, she placed second on balance beam and floor exercise. “My training has been going pretty good,” Hannah told Full Twist. “Recently I fractured a bone in my foot which put me in a boot for six weeks but right now I’m back in the gym working really hard to get skills back and be stronger than ever!”

The 15-year-old commented on her gymnastics goals: “Goal-setting is a very important part of gymnastics, and without setting goals I wouldn’t be able to achieve anything. Being a first-year Level 10 [gymnast], my short-term goals for this year are to stay healthy and compete the rest of my season…and possibly qualify to the 2015 J.O. Nationals. My long-term goals are to hopefully receive a full scholarship to a major Division I college!”

When asked if she might try elite gymnastics, Hannah told us, “I think the future has so many possibilities, and hard work and determination can get me anywhere. For right now, I am focused on being a phenomenal and consistent Level 10 gymnast.”

Hannah mentioned that “My next competition is the weekend of January 16-19. It is the Hill’s Maryland Classic. I will probably not compete all of my hardest routines due to my injury, but I will be doing watered-down routines.”

Hannah added, “I would like to thank Full Twist for interviewing me and to check out my website  for any updates and other info!”



            Simone Biles is the two-time reigning World all-around champion. In addition to her nine World Championships medals, the 17-year-old from World Champions Centre has won two U.S. all-around titles. “My training has been going pretty good to say the least,” Simone told Full Twist. “We have just started to prepare routines again for the upcoming season, which I am very excited and anxious about!”

At the Worlds in Nanning, Simone won golds in the team, all-around, balance beam, and floor exercise. She also won a silver medal on vault. “My experience at Worlds was so much fun and [I tried] to just live in the moment because not a lot of kids our age get to do what we do,” commented Simone. “So I just embrace the moment and take it all in. And experiencing that with some of my best friends is something I will cherish and remember forever!”

In November, Simone attended her first national team training camp since Worlds. “Things at the November camp went really well,” Simone noted. “It was just a skills working camp and to gear up for upcoming competition season mentally (American Cup). But other than that, just a skills camp.”

When asked about her new skills for 2015, Simone told us, “I am training a couple new skills. But we’re not sure when or if I’ll compete them yet. Just in a training mode.”

Simone added, “To all the Full Twist readers I would say: ‘Dream big, and always have fun!’ ”



Kourtney Chinnery is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from World Class Gymnastics in Virginia. At the 2014 J.O. National Championships, she placed fifth in the all-around, second on floor exercise, and ninth on vault, qualifying to the J.O. National Team. “My training has been going well and I have learned several new skills,” Kourtney told Full Twist. “Two of my favorite skills are my round-off, whip-back, full-in on floor and my Tkatchev on bars.”

Kourtney described her short-term and long-term gymnastics goals: “My short-term gymnastics goals are to keep working hard one day at a time and to have a good season. My long-term goals would be to make [a] positive contribution to a Division I college gymnastics team and to qualify elite. I would love to compete in the Olympic Games in 2016 in Rio.” She added, “It is definitely a goal of mine to not only try, but to do well in elite gymnastics.”

At the 2015 Atlanta Crown Invitational, Kourtney won the uneven bars and placed second on vault. “I am looking forward to the 2015 season and it will bring new skills and new opportunities,” she added.



Katelyn “Katie” Cox is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast. At the 2014 Junior Olympic National Invitational (NIT), she placed eighth in the all-around and fourth on floor. “My training has been going great,” Katie told Full Twist. “I have been working really hard at perfecting my routines for season. I have been working on my double pike on floor, which is coming along really well. I have also been working on my reverse hecht on bars, which is getting more consistent each day. Also, on bars I have been working on a full-twisting double layout dismount which I hope to put in my routine this season. I am going to debut a new floor routine soon that I am very excited for. It is very different than routines I have done before, and I am excited to see how people react to it. I am very grateful to have such a wonderful choreographer and coach like Heidi Stanovich put it together.”

Katie recently made a gym change, moving from World Class Gymnastics Academy in New York to Sonshine Gymnastics in North Carolina. “My goals right now are to get more consistent with my routines and compete all-around in all of the meets this season,” she said. “I would also love to make it to Regionals and then Nationals. My amazing teammates and I are really hoping for a great season ahead.”

When asked if she is considering trying elite gymnastics, the 14-year-old replied, “Not at the moment. It has crossed my mind, but I think right now I would really love to take my gymnastics career to college. I have been very blessed to receive a full ride verbal offer to North Carolina State University, and I am so excited to become part of the Wolfpack in 2018.”

Katie shared some great advice for the Full Twist readers: “This sport is supposed to be difficult; it’s not meant to be easy. It challenges you to be the best you can be, and only you can control whether you accept the challenge or not. Also, the sport is not all work; it’s supposed to be fun, too. That’s why most of us started the sport, because it was fun. So when it gets overwhelming just remember why you started in the first place.”



Autumn DeHarde is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from LaFleur Academy of Gymnastics in Wisconsin. At the 2014 J.O. National Championships, she placed sixth on floor exercise in her division. “My training has been great!” Autumn told Full Twist. “I’ve been working on perfecting my routines and I’m ready for the season.”

On the subject of her gymnastics goals, Autumn told us, “My short-term goals are to make it to nationals and place [in the] top ten in as many events [as] possible and my long-term goals are to get a full-ride scholarship to a Division I school.”

Autumn, who has competed as a Level 10 since 2011, has some exciting skills planned for 2015. “I am planning on having a double-back beam dismount, a yurchenko 1 ½ on vault, and hopefully a double full on floor.”

After finishing first in the all-around at the Island Adventure Meet in Graylake, Illinois on January 10th, Autumn is prepping for the Honkytonk Classic in Nashville in February. “This is such a great sport and I am really happy that I am able to be out there and compete with such great athletes,” said Autumn.



Erika De La Cruz is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from Elite Gymnastics Academy in Florida. At the 2013 Junior Olympic NIT, she placed 15th in the all-around. When asked how her training was going, Erika told Full Twist, “Well that’s quite a question, so to answer it fully I have to explain to readers that back in July of 2013 I stopped training. I had been training since I was four full-time and I had never been to school. I had been homeschooled my entire life. Although I loved homeschooling I really wanted to know what high school would be like and I wanted to experience that fully. Gymnastics had been my whole life and honestly I was tired physically and mentally so I decided to take the year off. My mom enrolled me at Palmetto Senior High and my high school career began. I loved school and made tons of friends and tried other sports as well, but deep inside I knew something was missing. In February of 2014 my coach Andreina came to and said, ‘Erika, it’s time to come back.’ I was scared because I knew what that would mean. So when you ask how has my training been going? Well it’s been tough!! Anyone that has ever been in gymnastics knows what seven months of no gymnastics can do. I had gained 10 to 15 pounds and hadn’t conditioned in months. The first few months were grueling to the point that [some] days I wanted [to] throw in the towel, but my coaches helped me get through those difficult days. It has been close to 11 months now and I finally have most of my old skills back. At the beginning I was only training three to four hours a day and in November 2014 I decided to homeschool again and train full time. I am now training 30 hours a week, six days a week. My training is getting better and I’m excited to compete my old skills again while working on new skills for the future.”

Erika explained her goals in gymnastics: “My short-term goals are to compete all my old Level 10 skills and have a solid season to help me qualify to J.O. Nationals. My long-term goals are to get a scholarship to compete for a Division I college.”

She added, “I would love to be an elite gymnast and compete internationally, but for right now I am just trying to work hard to have a great Level 10 season and perfect my skills.”

Erika’s first competition back was the Chalk It Up Invitational in November. “That was my first pre-season meet,” she told us. “I did okay. My goal for that meet was to get through my routines which I did except for a fall on beam. My competition season begins now in January at the Dolphin Classic in Orlando. I am looking forward to the season and I’m excited to be competing again.”

When asked if there was anything she’d like to tell the Full Twist readers, Erika said, “I just would like to thank you for taking the time to interview me. I love my sport and my time off taught me many lessons that I believe will make me not only a stronger person but a stronger gymnast!”



Nia Dennis a member of the U.S. artistic national team. Now a first-year senior gymnast, Nia competed as a junior elite beginning in 2011. At the 2014 P&G Championships, she placed first on vault and floor exercise in addition to securing a silver medal in the all-around and a bronze on the uneven bars. “My training has been going great!” Nia told Full Twist. “I have been working to incorporate new skills into my routines.”

The balanced all-arounder trains at Buckeye Gymnastics in Ohio with her coach Kittia Carpenter. “My short-term goals for this year are to be selected for international competitions and to finish in the Top 3; high podium finishes at the U.S. Classic and National Championships; and to be selected to Worlds,” explained Nia. “My long-term goals are to earn a college scholarship, and to go to the 2016 Olympics and finish in the top three.”

Nia told us, “I have upgraded my routines [for 2015], however, since they have not been finalized I am not ready to say what they are just yet.”

The final U.S. national team training camp of 2014 was held on November 21-25. “November camp went great!” said Nia. “Martha and the coaches were pleased with the progress I am making.”

Nia added, “I would like to tell the readers that if you have any goal in life that you really want to accomplish, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to get there. Never give up!”



Kennedi Edney is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from Precision Gymnastics in California. At the 2014 J.O. National Championships, she placed first in the all-around and on vault, in addition to winning silver medals on bars and floor and a bronze on balance beam. “My training has been good,” Kennedi told Full Twist. “Just getting ready for season.”

A former elite gymnast, Kennedi competed at the 2013 Secret U.S. Classic before resuming her J.O. career. “I don’t think I will go back elite,” Kennedi commented. “Right now I’m just trying to stay healthy for college.” She will be attending LSU in the fall of 2016.

On the subject of her gymnastics goals, Kennedi told us, “My short-term goal in gymnastics is to keep getting better as the years go on and my long-term goal for gymnastics is to coach.”

Kennedi mentioned that her next competition will be on February 1st, and she also added, “I would like to tell the readers to keep striving for the best and to work hard through the good and bad days.”



 Jazzy Kerber is a member of the U.S. senior rhythmic national team. Since we last caught up with the co-national champion in August, Jazzy competed in her second World Championships, finishing 19th in the all-around. “I’ve been working on my new routines for 2015, and I really like my choreography this year,” Jazzy told Full Twist. “Training is going well so far, and we’re working on getting ready for the upcoming competition season. I am actually about to go to a national team training camp in Lake Placid, New York from January 7th through the 12th.”

Jazzy told us that her next competition will be Miss Valentine in Estonia in February. “Normally, it would be the Colorado Challenge in February, but that event will not be a national team re-ranking this year,” she explained.

On the subject of new skills and choreography for 2015, Jazzy said, “I have three new routines this year—hoop, ball, and clubs. (I’m keeping my ribbon routine from last year.) I have some new masteries and have made some elements a little harder than last year. It is possible that my routines might change a bit more before I compete with them though, especially since I am going to work with some guest coaches and judges soon. Overall, I am very excited to show my new music and choreography!”

Jazzy added, “[I am] preparing for the important year ahead!”



Nicole Lanouette is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from New Hampshire Academy of Artistic Gymnastics. She competed at the 2014 Level 9 Eastern Championships, placing 21st in the all-around. “Training has been going great!” Nicole told Full Twist. “I am so happy that we are back to training in our gym! Last year just before Christmas there was a fire at our gym that destroyed the second floor, and the waiting room, office, locker rooms, and facilities on the first floor. As bad as that was, we were very lucky and thankful, because no one got hurt and because there was no damage to the gym! Repairs were expected to only take a few weeks, so things were looking good for us to get back to practice by mid-January. But then, frigid temperatures caused a pipe to burst and the gym was flooded, ruining the only part of the building that wasn’t lost in the fire! So those few weeks turned into a few months, and then those months turned into a few more months. It seemed like every week there was another construction delay. During those months several gyms opened their hearts and doors to us and allowed us to train at their facilities with their gymnasts. We trained at Gymnastics at Brentwood Commons in Brentwood, NH, Yellow Jackets in Middleton, MA, Phantom Gymnastics in Hampstead, NH, Flipz Gymnastics in Concord, NH and at the University of New Hampshire in Dover, NH. Traveling from gym to gym, and having different training hours and facilities was hard on us, but harder on our coaches and parents. It was a tough adjustment not knowing what practice would be like on any given day and training side by side with gymnasts and coaches that were our competitors. But we grew closer as a team, and we learned that our journey isn’t about medals and trophies. It’s about the people. Together with our families and our competitors we became better people with lifelong bonds. I am so grateful to everyone who helped us get through that time and so happy that our gym reopened in September and we are back to our normal training schedule!”

The 15-year-old commented, “My goals for my gymnastics are to keep growing as a gymnast and a teammate. I am a new Level 10 this year so I am looking forward to improving my Level 10 skills and upgrading them throughout the year. I am looking forward to competing with my team and I hope we make Regionals and Nationals! I am also very excited to be looking at colleges and hope to be competing on a college team in 2017-2018.” She added, “I absolutely love gymnastics, but I don’t have any plans to do elite gymnastics. I want to be on a college team and focus on academics. My long-term goal is a career in health care.”

On the subject of her next competition, Nicole told us, “I will be competing at the 2015 Winter Carnival hosted by Gymnastics at Brentwood Commons in Brentwood, New Hampshire.”

Nicole had some great advice to share: “I see so many people rushing from one thing to the next because they think they are missing out on something or because they think they aren’t advancing fast enough. I would like to tell Full Twist readers to appreciate every minute of every day and every person they meet along the way, because being a good person isn’t the result of being the first to get somewhere, being the highest level, or winning the most awards—it comes from appreciating the experiences on your journey. I am grateful for everyone in my life and the experiences we have shared. I wish everyone great happiness and success in the New Year and all the years to come.”



Madeleine Larock is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from Elk Grove Gymnastics in Illinois. She competed at the 2013 Level 9 State Championships and competed as a Level 10 in 2014. “Training has been going really well,” Madeleine told Full Twist. “We are currently ending a nice two week break from competitions, where we are able to focus on new skills, and I am excited to compete them!”

Madeleine explained her goals in gymnastics: “My short-term goals are to finish the season strong and make it to nationals as a Level 10. My long-term goal is to be successful competing at the college level.” Madeleine, who will graduate this year, mentioned that she “will not be striving for elite gymnastics at this time.”

When asked what she’d like to tell the Full Twist readers, Madeleine said, “I heard the quote ‘you say I dream too big, I say you think too small’. I really like this quote and it shows that you can accomplish anything, in and out of the gym, if you believe you can and commit to the process. As cliché as it is, whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right. Never be afraid to dream too big.”



Mary-Anne Monckton is a member of the Australian senior elite artistic national team. At the 2014 World Championships in Nanning, Mary-Anne helped her team to a seventh place finish in the team final. “Training is still pretty limited because I had surgery on my ankle after Worlds and I’m only eight weeks post op,” Mary-Anne told Full Twist. “I have been working really hard on my whole body strength, stretching and cardio with the boot on. Now I am out of the boot and walking around, and have started an intensive ankle rehab and strengthening program to get back running and doing skills as fast as possible.”

The 2012 Olympic alternate shared her gymnastics goals with us: “My only focus in the immediate short-term is to get back to the level I was last year on beam, and to be back doing yurchenko doubles on vault. As for bars I’m just trying to get my ‘easy’ routine back on the double bars and add in some new skills as they come. My aim for this year is to make the 2015 Worlds team, where our primary focus as a team is to come in the top eight and qualify for Rio.” She added, “Personally, my main long-term goal is to make the beam final at a World Championships and hopefully medal…it’s something that I have dreamed of for ages, and only realised last year that it was a possibility. Unfortunately I fell in qualifications in Nanning, but this year I will be better prepared, mentally and physically, to hit a clean routine when it counts.

On the subject of her next competition, Mary-Anne explained, “I’m not putting pressure on myself to be ready to compete three events any time before Nationals which is in May, because I want to be fully fit and healthy…however if I’m ready to compete beam and bars sooner, then I’ll hopefully get an international assignment—it’s all dependent on how the ankle holds up.”

Mary-Anne is already considering possible upgrades for 2015. “On bars I hope to make the biggest increase, because my routine had such a low start value [in] 2014, so I have two new release-release connections that I’ll be trying to add into my routine,” she told us. “On beam, I just need to get back to hitting my 6.5, then maybe add a skill or two. On vault I’ll be really pushing myself to have my yurchenko double competition-ready, I can do it…it’s just a matter of being able to safely compete it, while fully training the other two events as well.”

When asked if there was anything she’d like to tell the Full Twist readers, Mary-Anne said, “I’ve been doing weekly rehab/recovery videos on YouTube, which have documented some of the stuff I’ve been able to do in training with the boot on. Now they will be showing more of my ankle rehab and returning to gym…I think you’ll love them so check them out!”



Kristýna Pálešová is an elite artistic gymnast from Czech Republic. The two-time Olympian competed at the Nanning World Championships in October 2014, placing 62nd in the all-around. “Well, to be honest I haven’t been training that much in the past two months because of my knee injury I suffered in the beginning of November,” Kristýna told Full Twist. “Of course I tried to stay fit as much as I could but I had surgery on [the] 20th of November. And I was on crutches and with that big brace until [the] 29th of December, so [there were] not so many things I could train, so I was only doing some strength and stretching.”

When asked about her next competition, Kristýna told us, “I cannot say this yet. It’s still [a] pretty long recovery ahead because [for the] whole January I need to do rehabilitation to strengthen my leg. I will try to work a lot on bars now, because I would like to compete at European Championships in April at least on bars, but I will go there only if my bar routine will be strong enough to get in the final and of course if I will able to do the dismount, which I cannot say for sure right now. So my only focus right now is to get back my knee stronger than before.”

Kristýna explained her gymnastics goals: “For now my short-term gymnastics goal is to get back in gymnastics as strong as possible so I will be able to fulfill my long-term goal, which is to qualify for my third Olympic Games in Rio 2016. There are some more dreams in gymnastics which I did not make come true yet, but still I’ll keep them to myself.” She also commented, “I want to upgrade probably all of my routines except vault for the World Championships in Glasgow.”

Kristýna added, “I’d like to wish everyone to have a wonderful year 2015 and may all your dreams come true. I want to thank all of my fans for their support throughout the past years, and if you want to follow my steps on the road to Rio you can like my official Facebook page.”

Special thanks to all the gymnasts for chatting with us! Stay tuned for Part 13, which will include updates with Catherine Lyons, Eythora Thorsdottir, and others!

Image Source: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe

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