Elite and NCAA Gymnast Training Updates—Part 6

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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.

Silvia Colussi-Pelaez, Chelsea Davis, Sidney Dukes, Hannah Hunt, Madeline Gardiner, Melissa Ginaldi, Emily Loughery, Ashley Smith, Raer Theaker, and Tessie Zientek provided us with thoughtful insights into their training.

SILVIA COLUSSI-PELAEZ

Silvia Colussi-Pelaez has made quite a name for herself in artistic gymnastics. She competed at the 2013 World Championships on the Spanish team and is now an NCAA gymnast at Oregon State University. “My training has been going well!” Silvia told Full Twist. “Since official practice started, our team has been working very hard and we are all very excited for the 2015 season! I have been working a couple of different skills in the gym and have made some changes in my routines since last year. I’m also getting a new floor routine next week and I am very excited to be able to show it off this year!”

Silvia has even had a skill named after her in elite gymnastics: a sideways aerial on beam. “Competing elite and NCAA are two very different gymnastics worlds,” Silvia remarked. “When I was training elite, I trained 30+ hours per week, where as in NCAA gymnastics, teams train around 20 hours per week. Also, in elite, my routines were longer and had a lot more skills, but in college, my routines allow me to work with the skills that I am the most confident with and that I can perform and execute consistently. The team atmosphere in NCAA gymnastics is definitely different from the individual mindset in elite. I am so grateful to be able to be a part of such a motivated and determined team and it makes every day in the gym exciting and rewarding.”

Silvia explained her goals for the remainder of 2014 and beyond:  “My personal goals for the rest of 2014 and for the 2015 season are to improve the consistency of my routines and also to make bars, beam and floor lineups. I would eventually like to compete AA but my main goal right now is to contribute my best to the team so that we can qualify to NCAA nationals as [a] team!

When asked if she might ever return to elite, Silvia replied, “Competing elite has been on my mind, especially since it’s only been a year since I competed at Worlds in Belgium. There are a lot of things that I miss about elite but right now I am focused on my collegiate gymnastics career and my academics here at OSU. Being a part of such a great team is just an incredible experience and I am enjoying the journey and embracing every moment. You never know where life will take you, so you’ll just need to wait to see!”

 

CHELSEA DAVIS

Chelsea Davis has been a top gymnast in the United States for many years. An alternate to the silver medal-winning 2010 World Championships team, she now competes for the University of Georgia in NCAA gymnastics.

“Training has been going well!” Chelsea told Full Twist. “I took the summer off to rehab and let my body rest and just getting back into stuff, I love the excitement of getting to do my skills again and putting things together!”

The University of Georgia finished fifth in the Super Six final at the NCAA Championships in April. Chelsea’s goals for this upcoming season are “to contribute to the team as much as possible, and in as many facets as possible! I want to enjoy every single moment of doing gymnastics, competing, and being with my team, and I would like to compete consistently week in and week out. Obviously, SEC champs, and national champs when the process is complete, is always a team goal.”

Chelsea told us, “I am training beam right now so a whole event of new skills is in the works currently! Vault and bars should be the same this year!”

When asked if she might ever return to elite, Chelsea responded, “Unfortunately as much as I would love to drag out my career forever, my body has been through the ringer at this point and continuing elite would not be possible for me. My time in elite was wonderful with Kim and Chris [Burdette] and if possible I would start it all over again, however, I will be moving onto grad school and pursuing my career goals!”

 

SIDNEY DUKES

 Sidney Dukes is a U.S. Level 10 gymnast from Texas East Gymnastics. She placed 12th on floor exercise in the Senior B division of the 2014 J.O. National Championships. “Training is going really well,” Sidney told Full Twist. “New skills and routines are being put together at this point. I hope to compete my Onodi on beam for the first time this season, along with a full-twisting yurchenko on vault and an Arabian double front on floor.”

When asked about her goals in gymnastics, Sidney replied, “My goal this year is to finish my J.O. career with wonderful memories. I would like to be in the top three at state and regionals as well as top 10 at J.O. nationals.”

The 17-year-old told us that “My first competition will be an in-house meet at my gym, Texas East Gymnastics. But our first competition of the season will be at Texas Prime in January.”

Sidney explained her upgrades for 2015: “I am working on at least one upgrade per event. I hope to have my full on vault, my double layout dismount on bars, my Onodi on beam, and my Arabian double front on floor. I also am getting a new floor routine which I am ecstatic about.”

 

 HANNAH HUNT

Hannah Hunt is a U.S. Level 10 gymnast from North Carolina. She trains at LemPossible Gymnastics. “My training has been going great!” Hannah told Full Twist. “I have added some new skills to each event and I am very excited to compete in my first year as a Level 10. I have been very consistent with my routines lately and that is when I feel like I am doing my best.”

Hannah, who competed both as a Level 8 and Level 9 last season, explained her goals in gymnastics: “My goals in gymnastics are to make the Nastia Liukin Cup, qualify for J.O. Nationals, and most importantly, compete in college. Competing in NCAA gymnastics has always been my top priority. I even have my top three picks of my favorite colleges I dream of attending.”

The 14-year-old told us, “My next competition is near the end of November and is called the “Crown of the Carolinas.” I will be attending a FlipFest camp the week before to help me prepare for that competition. This meet is sort of a warm-up for my competition season. Afterwards, I will attend the “Christmas on the Chesapeake” competition in Baltimore, Maryland. There are also two Nastia Liukin Cup qualifiers on my meet schedule.”

When asked if she might try elite, Hannah replied, “I have always considered elite gymnastics. If I develop the skills, it would be a wonderful accomplishment and if I do make it to elite, another goal would be to make the National Team! I enjoy watching the elite gymnasts compete. I have been watching them throughout the 2014 Artistic World Championships.”

 

MADELINE GARDINER

 Madeline Gardiner is a former elite artistic gymnast from Canada. She now competes in NCAA gymnastics at Oregon State University.

“Training at Oregon State has been going great!” Madeline told Full Twist. “It’s always an exciting feeling stepping into the gym with my team every day, and I look forward to it. Since report day training has been ramping up and motivation is running high. I’ve been feeling really strong in the gym and I can’t wait for [the] season to begin again!”

As an elite gymnast, Madeline was the 2011 Canadian national all-around champion and was an alternate to the 2012 Olympic team. “There are many differences between Canadian elite and Oregon State NCAA,” Madeline explained. “The code is completely different from what I was used to in elite, with an emphasis on execution rather than difficulty, which I have to say I really enjoy. The gymnastics I get to witness in NCAA is beautiful. Secondly, being on a team has a whole different dynamic in NCAA, and I can’t get enough of it. Training in the same gym as my teammates every day gives you a new perspective on ‘team’ in an individual sport, which is something I didn’t get much of a chance to experience in elite since our Canadian team consisted of girls from across the country who trained together once or twice a month. Personally in my own gymnastics NCAA differs from elite by allowing me a lot more expression. Collegiate gymnastics gives me the chance to walk confidently into the gym every day, perform routines that show off my personality, and enjoy getting to know 15 other girls who share a passion for gymnastics with me. The atmosphere inside the gym is louder for sure, which is definitely different than what I was used to in elite!”

Madeline, who tied for third on beam at the 2014 NCAA Championships, shared her goals with us: “My personal goals for the rest of 2014 and the 2015 season are to prepare the best I can for meet season, and then work to compete in [the] all-around like I did last year. I would also like to help my team qualify for—as well as compete in—the 2015 National NCAA Championships in Texas in April! Technically, my goal this year is to improve the quality of my gymnastics, stuck landings, pointed toes, hit handstands, the small things that make a huge difference in NCAA!”

When asked if she might ever return to elite, Madeline responded, “Elite gymnastics has always been in the back of my mind since I started NCAA. I’ve thought a lot about returning to team Canada in the future and have decided to cross that bridge when I come around to it. There are definitely aspects of elite that I miss, but right now I’m pretty focused on my career here at Oregon State. There’s always a chance though!”

 

MELISSA GINALDI

Melissa Ginaldi is a U.S. Level 9 gymnast who trains at Central Bucks School of Gymnastics. “Training has been going very well as I am training to compete Level 10 this coming season,” Melissa told Full Twist. “I made it to Level 9 Nationals last year and I am eager for the next level. I have been spending most of my training time working on release skills and ensuring my floor routine is clean, I have been nailing my layout on vault and that feels good.”

She placed 16th in the all-around and fifth on floor exercise at the 2014 Eastern Championships. “My short-term goal would be to compete in nationals again next year,” said Melissa. “[My] long-term goal is to compete at the collegiate level. I went to camps at Penn State and NC State over the summer and I am really looking forward to going to college. I am only in 9th grade but I can already see myself enjoying the college experience.”

Melissa told us, “My next competition will be at the end of November. It will be a home meet at my gym Central Bucks Gymnastics and I am really excited for the season to begin.”

 

EMILY LOUGHERY

Emily Loughery is a Level 10 artistic gymnast who trains at Silvia’s Gymnastics in Pennsylvania. At the 2014 Region 7 Championships, she placed 7th on floor and 13th on balance beam. “Training has been going great for me!” Emily told Full Twist earlier this month. “I had a lot of fun this summer learning new skills and just cleaning up others. I really love the positive attitude I’ve been having lately, it makes everything seem so much easier and more enjoyable. If you want to see all that I’ve been doing feel free to check out my YouTube channel.”

Unfortunately, Emily severely bruised her talus a few weeks ago, but she told us, “Next week I’ll be able to start training again.”

When asked about her goals in gymnastics, Emily replied, “My goals for this season are just to have fun and put in my best effort. To me the scores won’t matter, I just want to feel proud of myself no matter how good or bad the routine is. My goal for gymnastics in the future is to compete in college. College gymnastics looks like a lot of fun and I just love the whole team aspect.”

“My first competition of the season will be the Greater New York Invitational in Suffern, NY,” said Emily. “It is the weekend of December 6th and by that time I hope my ankle will be healed enough to do bars and beam.”

When asked if she might try elite, Emily said, “I don’t want to try elite gymnastics. Because I’m a senior in high school I really have my eyes set on college. I also feel that I wouldn’t even be able to make it in to the elite program. I’m just very happy with where I’m at now in gymnastics and don’t want anything to change.”

 

 ASHLEY SMITH

Ashley Smith is a top Level 10 artistic gymnast. The 15-year-old trains at Sonshine Gymnastics in North Carolina and is committed to Auburn University. “Training is going well,” Ashley told Full Twist. “I have added a new release to my bar routine (The Ray). So now I will have both a Geinger and Ray in my routine. We are starting to work routine parts to get ready for competition. I am also hoping to add a pike full-in to my floor routine this year and possibly compete a Yurchenko 1.5 on vault. But we will see. We have to be really consistent on skills before we add them into competition.”

Ashley placed fifth in the all-around and won the uneven bars title at the 2014 J.O. National Championships. “[My goals are to] continue to go to J.O. Nationals each year and try and place higher in the all-around. I have been to J.O. Nationals since I started Level 10 four years ago so if I can continue qualifying I will have been to Nationals seven times total by the time I graduate. That would be a huge accomplishment. On top of that I just want to continue to add skills throughout the years.”

When asked if she might ever give elite gymnastics a try, Ashley replied, “No. I am focused on remaining a Level 10 gymnast and just improving my skills each year. Although elite was once a goal I realized I like the J.O. competitions better.”

Ashley told us when her next competition will be: “We start our season in December at the Atlantis Crown Invitational in the Bahamas.”

 

RAER THEAKER

Raer Theaker is one of the top elite gymnasts in Wales. She trains at Cardiff Central Youth Club.

“Training’s been going well,” Raer told Full Twist. “Since Commonwealth I’ve had surgery to sort my knee out, so I’ve been doing a lot of rehab to make my knee stronger so this injury doesn’t happen again.”

At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Raer helped her team place third in the final, Wales’ highest finish ever in the women’s competition. “Commonwealth was just completely mad for me; I was going from highs to lows throughout the whole games! I did enjoy every minute of it but I do wish some things could’ve been different. Since the Games I feel like I’ve matured and grown up and realized how big it was for me and for Wales; it has given me the motivation to carry on doing gymnastics until hopefully 2018.”

When asked about her goals, Raer replied, “For the rest of 2014 I am focusing on becoming a mentally and physically stronger gymnast. I am doing mainly just bars at the moment until I get the go-ahead from the medical team which hopefully won’t be too long now. I’m hoping to stay injury-free next year because this year I’ve been held up with a lot of injuries, if that happens and I stay fit I will try my hardest for Europeans and then Worlds in Glasgow at the end of the year, but I don’t think too much about the future, I like to take things a day and competition at a time.”

Raer told us, “I am hoping to put a few upgrades in on most pieces especially with the long period of no competitions I have now due to injury, but I’m not going to say anything about upgrades because I don’t want to ruin anything, psychological thing!”

Raer also mentioned when her next competition will be: “I am aiming for next year now starting with the Welsh championships and then the British and hopefully pushing my way into Europeans!”

 

 

TESSIE ZIENTEK

Teressa “Tessie” Zientek is a Level 10 gymnast from New Jersey. She was the uneven bars silver medalist at the 2014 State Championships. “My training has been going great!” Tessie told Full Twist. “In August I switched gyms basically because my whole team graduated and went to college. I now go to Will-Moor Gymnastics in Mount Laurel, NJ and I’m working out with a great Level 10 team.”

The 15-year-old said that her goals “are to compete at a NCAA Division 1 college.” She also explained her new skills for 2015: “This year I’ve upgraded all four events. On vault I’m twisting yurchenko fulls but started 1 ½s. Bars I’m planning on competing a hop full and [I’m] working on double layout dismounts. Also, lots of combinations with my old skills. Beam, I’m now doing straddle jump sheep jumps and side aerial back handsprings. On floor I’m working on [a] front handspring, layout, full and connecting a back double full out [of] my 1 ½.”

When asked if she might try elite gymnastics, Tessie replied, “No, I feel like elite gymnastics would’ve been a goal I needed to set when I was younger.”

Tessie told us, “My first USAG meet of the season is at Rutgers at the end of November. I am competing gymnastics for my high school team, Holmdel. Over the four weeks we have all of the biggest high school meets: conference, sectional, and states.”

Special thanks to all the gymnasts for chatting with us! Stay tuned for Part 7, which will include updates with Ida Gustafsson, Becky Downie, and others!

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