Elite and NCAA Gymnast Training Updates—Part 9


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.

Kelsey Aucoin, Dorina Boczogo, Mackenzie Caquatto, Talia Chiarelli, Julie Croket, Rheagan Courville, Nevaeh DeSouza, Thelma Rut Hermannsdóttir, Ilaria Käslin, Alyssa Long, Tienna Nguyen, Isabela Onyshko, Halli Swann, and Aleeza Yu provided us with thoughtful insights into their training.



Kelsey Aucoin is a former U.S. Level 10 gymnast who now competes for the University of New Hampshire in NCAA gymnastics. “Training has been going really well,” Kelsey told Full Twist. “Season is right around the corner and I am so excited for it to start.”

Kelsey, who is a junior, told us, “My short-term goals are consistency and hitting three for three routines at our first meet. My long-term goals are winning EAGL conference, qualifying to regionals, and I would love to be able to qualify to nationals and get to go back home to Texas.”

At the 2014 NCAA Regionals in April, Kelsey contributed three solid scores to her team’s total. When asked about new skills, she responded, “I wouldn’t really say I’m debuting a new skill, it’s more like bringing it out of retirement. I have switched up my floor routine for this year, opening with a front double twist.”

When asked if there was anything she’d like to tell the Full Twist readers, Kelsey said, “I have recently found a quote that I really enjoy. It says: ‘The only person you should strive to be better than, is the person you were yesterday’. In gymnastics the only person [you] should try to be better than is [yourself]. Motivating yourself to accomplish corrections or new skills every day will make you the gymnast you want to be when you step onto that competition floor.”



Dorina Boczogo is an elite artistic gymnast from Hungary. The two-time Olympian was recently injured in the warm-up for the Hungarian Team Championships. “Sadly, I have partially torn [a] ligament in my ankle, that keeps me from training at my best,” Dorina told Full Twist. “I’ve been doing physiotherapy, but meanwhile I do everything I can at the gym, for example, I am able to do everything on bars, except my dismount.”

Dorina finished 58th in the all-around at the 2014 World Championships. She played an instrumental role in helping Hungary to 20th place as a team. “I really loved Nanning, it was very well organized, the city was beautiful,” commented Dorina. “Although the Hungarian team had some problems with the apparatuses and getting used to them, as the floor was very hard in my opinion and the bars felt very different too but during the training sessions before the competition, we managed to get used to it all. I wasn’t fully happy with my performance, because I fell off the beam, but everything else was good.”

When asked about her next competition, Dorina replied, “My next competition will be next spring but I don’t know any dates yet.”

On the subject of upgrades for 2015, Dorina told us, “I am looking forward to [improving] on bars, with new skills; also I will be getting new floor choreography for next year.”

Special thanks to Agnes Suto for translating this interview for us!



Mackenzie Caquatto is a former U.S. elite artistic gymnast who completed her NCAA career this spring at the University of Florida. Mackenzie helped win the silver with her U.S. teammates at the 2010 World Championships in Rotterdam. We caught up with her to discuss the status of her gymnastics career, her favorite skills, and the future!



Talia Chiarelli is a former Canadian elite artistic gymnast who now competes for the University of Michigan in NCAA. “Training has been going really well,” Talia told Full Twist. “We’re trying to get all our numbers in before season starts so we can really focus on making our routines clean and consistent. Everyone seems to be adjusting well, and skills and routines are becoming more solid every day.”


Talia helped Canada qualify a full team to the 2012 Olympics at the London Test Event. Earlier this year, she scored personal bests on vault and floor at the NCAA Championships. “Our goals for this season are to defend our Big 10 Championship title (at home) and to have a strong showing at NCAA Championships. Winning Big 10s at home would be absolutely great. We also want to stay healthy the whole season so that we can be successful when post-season rolls around.”


On the subject of new skills for 2015, Talia told us, “I’m hoping to put a full-in in my floor routine for my first pass, and that’s actually going really well. That’s a brand new skill for me. As for everything else, I’m just trying to clean things up and make everything better than it was last year!”


When asked if she might ever return to elite gymnastics, Talia answered, “I don’t think I could ever see myself going back to elite. I had a lot of fun with it and it was an experience that I would never trade for anything, but realistically, I don’t think my body could handle it anymore and I would have a very difficult time balancing a college course load and an elite gymnastics career, especially because I would have to go back and forth to Canada. It was amazing to be able to be a part of that world, but I think that chapter of my gymnastics life is done!”




Julie Croket is an elite artistic gymnast from Belgium. After suffering injuries in the past two years, Julie is back, and her fans couldn’t be happier. “After having been injured for more than a year, my problems on my left knee and foot were solved,” Julie told Full Twist. “In the beginning of the month July, during my two weeks’ holiday, I have trained every day with a physiotherapist for three hours a day. It was a hard time, but the result was that I was physically in good shape again. I started the preparation [for] the World Championships in China for which I ultimately was selected. Our team did very well, we obtained the eleventh place. I was, as well as the head coach, satisfied with my performance. Right now, I’m working on getting back [to] the level I once had. The coach chooses a progressive program without taking any risk.”


Julie finished 38th in the all-around qualifications at the 2014 Worlds, with her highest score coming on floor exercise. “I felt great when I heard that I was selected for the Belgian national team. The coach told me that I was going to participate on all four disciplines. This meant to me that he had faith in how I was going to perform in China and how I am going to perform in the future. I enjoyed my competition [in Nanning] so much that I realised just how much I had missed it. Many gymnasts of other countries came to me to say how delighted they were to see me back in competition. It felt good not to be forgotten. Our result was the best team result ever performed by a Belgian team. We hope to be at the Olympics in Rio with our team.”


On the topic of her goals for the rest of 2014 and beyond, Julie commented, “My main goal is getting better without injuries, so I can leave the disappointing, hard time behind me. I’m training hard, without forgetting that I have to study hard to pass my exams in June. I want to become a teacher.”


Julie is not sure when her next competition will be, but she said, “I certainly know that the European Championships will take place in France, in Montpellier, in April. Afterwards the World Championships in Glasgow will be very important, because of the selections for the Olympic Games.”


When asked about new skills for 2015, Julie replied, “For the moment, I’m trying to get my old level back. It will be the coach who will eventually change my program. I hope to progress, especially in my floor exercise, because that’s what I like doing the most.”





Rheagan Courville is a former U.S. elite artistic gymnast who is entering her final year in NCAA at Louisiana State University. “Our training has been going very well,” Rheagan told Full Twist. “The freshmen make it so exciting and energetic, the sophomores and juniors are working harder than ever, the senior class could not be more motivated and excited for the season, and our team chemistry creates such a productive, fun environment. We have a lot of new skills and routines to show off, too!”

Rheagan is a two-time NCAA national vault champion, and placed second in the all-around at the 2013 NCAA Championships. “Goals for the upcoming season are to stay healthy for the entirety of the season so I can give my 100% effort towards an SEC and NCAA national championship team title,” Rheagan told us.

“I have changed some routines up,” Rheagan explained. “I have a new dismount on beam and a sassy new floor routine that ACK [Ashleigh Clare-Kearney] created for me, but for the most part everything will be the same.”

On the subject of returning to elite, she remarked, “I do not see myself returning to the elite level, but anything can happen.”

Rheagan added, “I want to tell Full Twist readers that you’re about to see an LSU gymnastics team this season like you never have before, because we’re stopping at nothing to make this the best year yet.”



Nevaeh DeSouza is a U.S. artistic gymnast in the HOPES division. “Since the Secret Challenge, I went to a development camp at the ranch and have increased my hours in the gym,” Nevaeh told Full Twist. “Training is going well, I have been working on improving my difficulty scores on all of my events, and being consistent with [the] skills that I already have.  Some new skills I have been working on are double fulls on vault, Rays and [a] full out dismount on bars. Beam includes side aerial-layout stepout and back handspring layout-layout. This year I will have a new floor routine which is more classical. For tumbling I hope to add my Arabian double and bring all my passes to “D” value or higher with a double pike, front double full, and 2 ½ punch front.”

At the 2014 U.S. Challenge (held in conjunction with the Secret Classic), Nevaeh finished seventh in the all-around for her age division. “The Challenge was a great experience for me,” Nevaeh remarked. “It was my first time competing on a podium. I was a little nervous but I had just competed at [J.O.] Nationals in May, so I had a little experience with pressure at a big meet. It was also a first for me to compete the Maloney on bars and have a solid bar routine since Regionals. I met a bunch of new gymnasts at this meet, and we have become pretty good friends.”

When asked about her goals, Nevaeh replied, “This year I think it would be fun to qualify to the Nastia Cup, but my main goal is to qualify as a junior elite. Once that happens, then new goals [will] come. Competing at a [U.S] Classic and qualifying to Championships would be next.”

Nevaeh explained that her schedule this next year will be packed with qualifiers. “My first competition will be in January at the Lady Luck Nastia Qualifier in Las Vegas, followed by the Sand Dollar Invitational Nastia Qualifier in Florida. My first elite qualifier will be in Ohio at the Buckeye Classic and I will also be attending the elite qualifier at All Olympia.”




 Thelma Rut Hermannsdóttir is an elite artistic gymnast from Iceland. The 21-year-old has competed in four World Championships. “After we competed at the [Nanning] World Championships we had one week before we returned home to Iceland,” Thelma told Full Twist. “That week in China we did not have any training so we just used that week to watch the finals. We also went sightseeing and we went to the boarders of China and Vietnam. When we got home the training started again but I decided to take a little break. [The] week before the World Championships I got little injured and I hadn’t had time to fully recover because I had to get ready for Worlds. Now I am back in the gym and it feels good. Now we have some time to be working on some new skills.”


Thelma, who competed with two of her Icelandic teammates at Worlds, said she was very happy about her performance in Nanning. “I did very good on vault where I did front handspring front pike and stuck a really good landing. My floor and beam were successful, but I didn’t do as good on bars. I need to work a little bit more there to get a higher D-score.”


On the subject of her goals, Thelma told us, “For the rest of the year we will be training and getting new skills for the competitions in 2015. My goals are to make the team for the European Championship which [will be] held in France and make the team for Games of the small states of Europe which will be held in Iceland in June. The European Games are also next year and this is the first time that gymnastics are participating in that competition. I hope to make all teams.”


Thelma explained that she thinks her next competition will be in February. She also commented on her new skills for 2015. “Now I am working on [a] Gienger on bars because I have to get a higher D-score. Then I am working on some new connections on beam and [a] yurchenko on vault. Hopefully it will all be ready for my next competition.”




Ilaria Käslin is an elite artistic gymnast from Switzerland. The seventeen-year-old has competed in two World Championships and recently competed at the DTB-Pokal Stuttgart World Cup. “My training is going on pretty well,” Ilaria told Full Twist in November. “In recent weeks I took part in various competitions and the results were not very consistent. I’ll start training new routines only after [Stuttgart].”

At the Nanning Worlds, Ilaria finished 19th in qualifications with her Swiss team. “Whilst the Worlds were a nice experience I didn’t compete well unfortunately,” remarked Ilaria. “The team made a bad start at the beam and then could not go back again in the competition. Personally I didn’t perform well and I [failed] to qualify for the final of the top 24. I noticed how drastically the level had increased since 2013. This is due to the Olympics getting nearer and everybody has this objective in mind.”

On the subject of her goals, Ilaria told us, “My next goals are to work hard in order to improve. Next year will be an important year in view of the Olympics which is the dream of any athlete. Hopefully the European and World Championships will be okay so that the team can qualify for Rio 2016.”

When asked about upgrades for 2015, Ilaria said, “I must improve my start scores by improving the difficulty, and this is what I want to do. The most important for me is to perform a balance beam routine with a D-level dismount. As for the rest, I must see with my coach.”



 Alyssa Long is a U.S. trampoline gymnast who trains at 5 Star Tumbling and Trampoline in Illinois. “Training has been at a standstill up until recently,” Alyssa told Full Twist. “After nationals in July, I discovered that the back pain I had been experiencing since May was a stress fracture at L3. I spent my summer in physical therapy and conditioning, but I finally began jumping basics on trampoline last month! I should be able to begin training double mini in the next couple weeks, depending on how my progress goes.”

Alyssa finished second in double mini at the 2014 USA Gymnastics Championships, repeating her result from the 2014 Kalon Ludvigson Invitational. “I hope to continue to gain strength and confidence in my skills,” commented Alyssa. “A short-term goal is to be back to speed by early February for the Lincoln Cup in Springfield, Ilinois. It will be my second year as a senior elite on double mini, and I plan to focus on increasing my difficulty as well as maintaining consistency. As for a long-term goal, leading up to the end of the season, I will work towards being chosen for the 2015 World Championships team competing in Odense, Denmark. Hopefully I can [contribute] to the team competition and help women’s double mini defend their reigning world title!”

When asked about new skills for 2015, Alyssa replied, “Ideally, I’ll be able to incorporate some of the new mounts and dismounts that I was playing around with last year, but it all depends on my recovery! If all is well, I will definitely up my difficulty, maybe some 1 ½ twisting double somersaults as mounts (full-in half-outs and rudi-outs), and my double-twisting double as a new dismount!”



Tienna Nguyen is a U.S. HOPES gymnast who trains at Zenith Elite. At the 2014  U.S. Challenge, she finished fifth in her age division. She told Full Twist that her training has been going great. “I’ve been doing well and feeling good,” said Tienna. “[Since] the U.S. Secret Challenge, I’ve been attending the Developmental Training Camps at the U.S. National Training Center.”

On the subject of her goals, Tienna told us, “I want to continue to stay healthy, work on new skills, and improve on the skills that I already have.”

In November, Tienna and her club competed at the Marseille Open in France. Before she left for the competition, she remarked, “I want to gain experience competing internationally and also on the podium.”

When asked if she was hoping to debut any new skills in 2015, Tienna responded, “I’ve been working on the yurchenko full on vault, triple full on floor, back handspring back lay on beam, and back hand step out back hand two feet double full dismount on beam, stalder blind into front stalder and full-out dismount on bars.”



 Isabela Onyshko is a Canadian elite artistic gymnast who trains at Brandon Eagles Gymnastics Centre. Since we last caught up with Isabela in July, she competed at the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships. “Lately, my training has been going well,” Isabela told Full Twist. “It was hard to get back into a routine and adjust to the time change after the Nanning World Championships.”

Isabela placed 12th with her Canadian team at Worlds, and finished 29th in the all-around in qualifications. “I had a really good time at the World Championships,” said Isabela. “The facility was very good and, coming from Canada, the warm weather was very nice. As well, I quite enjoyed competing against the world’s best; it was a great learning experience. It was also nice to get to know the other girls on the team better during the trip.”

When asked about her next competition, Isabela explained, “As far as I know, my next competition will be Elite Canada at the end of January [to the] beginning [of] February.”

On the subject of upgrades for 2015, Isabela revealed, “I am working on a yurchenko double on vault, a double layout in floor, connecting a free hip full to Tkatchev and a pac to a Maloney-half on bars. I am also working in a back handspring full-twisting back tuck in beam and numerous other combinations that will add to the start value of my beam routine.”



Halli Swann is a U.S. artistic Level 10 gymnast from St. Louis, Missouri. She placed second on vault at the 2014 Level 9 Western Championships and finished fifth on balance beam. “My training has been going great,” Halli told Full Twist. “I’ve been working really hard to get all my new skills for the 2015 competition season. Some of the new skills I’ve been working on are my Tkatchev on bars, side somi on beam, and my yurchenko layout full on vault.”

Halli, who trains at Team Central Gymnastics Academy, told us, “My main goal for gymnastics is to compete for a Division 1 gymnastics team in college.”

When asked when her next competition would be, the 15-year-old explained, “My next competition will be the Meet Me in St. Louis invitational in January of 2015.”

Halli told us about new skills she hopes to debut in 2015: “This season I will be showing many new skills. On floor I will be competing a tucked double back. On bars I will be competing a Tkatchev and my vault will be a yurchenko layout full. For my beam routine I will be doing a round-off 3/2 dismount and [I] will hopefully be competing a side somi by mid-competition season. More information about me and my entire meet schedule for the 2015 competition season can be found by visiting my website .



Aleeza Yu is an elite artistic gymnast from Canada. She trains at Gemini Gymnastics Club with her coaches Elena Davydova and Valery Yahchybekov. “I have an injury right now that has limited me to doing light training,” Aleeza told Full Twist. “It’s a little setback but I will progress slowly.”

At the Nanning World Championships on October 3-12, 2014, Aleeza placed twelfth with her team. “The World Championships was one of the best competition experiences I’ve had,” said Aleeza. “It gave [me] a new appreciation for gymnastics by showing the talent and determination that world class gymnasts have. I look forward to [competing] again with these high level athletes in the world, representing Canada.”

When asked about her goals for the rest of 2014 and beyond, Aleeza replied, “For now, I am done competing for the year, but further on I hope to compete in more international competitions and gain more experience while continuing to upgrade on all events. In the far future, I would like to earn an athletic scholarship and hopefully make the 2016 Olympic team.”

The Stouffville, Ontario native explained, “After my injury, I am hoping to regain all my skills and upgrade on each event, also focusing on upgrading my execution on every event.”

Aleeza added, “At this moment, I don’t know when my next competition is because it is up to my coaches to decide when to compete me.”

Special thanks to all the gymnasts for chatting with us! Stay tuned for Part 10, which will include updates with Brenna Dowell, Elsa Garcia, and others!

Image via Mackenzie Caquatto on Twitter

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