Elite and NCAA Gymnast Training Updates—Part 13


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.

Nicole Ahsinger, Elena Arenas, Darian Burns, Destiny Cobbs, Georgia Dabritz, Molly Frack, Cassidy Girolamo, Taylor Lawson, Catherine Lyons, Haley Pitou, Adriana Popp, Emily Richardson, Eythora Thorsdottir, Isabella Tsark, and Addy Womeldorph provided us with thoughtful insights into their training.


Nicole Ahsinger is a member of the U.S. National T&T team. At the 2014 USA Gymnastics Championships, she placed fifth in synchro and eighth in trampoline in the junior division. “My training has been pretty great so far,” Nicole told Full Twist. “I have been focusing more on conditioning and flexibility. I have recently just started to jump again and learning new skills to put into my routines for senior competition.”

The 16-year-old mentioned her gymnastics goals: “My main goal is the Olympics [in] 2016 preferably and also [in] 2020. I would also like to represent the USA in all the upcoming senior events, especially World Championships.”

Nicole shared some additional information about herself to the Full Twist readers; “I have been doing gymnastics for about 13 years now. I was on the junior national team for three years and now I am currently on the senior national team for trampoline. This past summer in August I was selected to compete as the only American for the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China. I placed 5th, which I would say wasn’t my best because I know I can do better, but it was an unforgettable experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have also been to five World Age Group Championships, which were [in] Russia, France, England, Bulgaria, and this past year in the U.S.”

Nicole trains at So Cal TTC in Poway, California and is ready for her first competitions as a senior gymnast. “My next competition will be in Azerbaijan, Baku in the beginning of March,” she explained. “I have been selected from the senior national team to represent the USA at the European Test Event. Only two girls are going so I am very excited and can’t wait to travel and compete there. I will be competing individual and Synchronization Trampoline.”



Elena Arenas is a U.S. elite artistic junior gymnast who trains at Georgia Elite. At the 2014 P&G Championships, she placed seventh on uneven bars and tied for 21st in the all-around. “My training has been going really well,” Elena told Full Twist. “I am trying to learn a bunch of new skills so my D-scores will be higher this year.”

Elena is a year too young to compete in the Rio 2016 Olympics, but she has plenty of other goals at which to aim. “My short-term goals are to make it to P&Gs again and make the top 12,” she told us. “I would also like to make it to national team camp. My long-term goals are to make the national team and get an international assignment. My life goal is to make Worlds and the 2020 Olympics. I also would like to go to college and compete there.”

During the weekend of January 9-11, Elena competed at the Atlanta Crown Invitational, placing second in the Open all-around. “My next big meet is the WOGA Classic in February,” she remarked. “I am competing in the International Elite session, so it will be really cool to compete with all the other countries.”

On the subject of upgrades for 2015, Elena said, “I am working yurchenko double fulls on vault on to a soft landing, but it probably won’t be ready this year. On bars, I am working rays, shaposhes, inside stalders and toe fulls. They are starting to get consistent and I hope to have them in my routine by the elite season. On beam, I have added a three-part series (back handspring back handspring two foot layout two foot), front tuck and double pike dismount. I am also working on Onodis. On floor I have added a piked full-in and upgraded leaps.”



Darian Burns is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from the Atlanta Gymnastics Center. At the 2014 Region 8 Championships, she placed 19th in the all-around. “Well, [my training has] really had its ups and downs and [has] been pretty difficult this year,” Darian told Full Twist. “Skills this year are coming along, but it has been really hard to pull them all together.”

Darian commented on her short-term and long-term gymnastics goals: “My short-term goals are to make it to J.O. Nationals this year and have a great season in my second [year] of Level 10. Long-term goals are to compete collegiately at a Division I or II university.”

The 16-year-old mentioned some new skills she’s hoping to debut this year. “In floor I am debuting a rudi, a front-thru to round-off back handspring double back; on bars a jaeger and a yurchenko layout full on vault. I actually competed my rudi and jaeger this weekend at the Ozone Invitational and hit them both and I haven’t stopped smiling yet! I came away [with] first place [on] vault with my yurchenko layout; although [for the] next competition I have a lot of work to do polishing up these skills, and I will be adding a full twist to my vault. I’m super excited about that and ready to get it started!”

When asked if she might try elite, Darian replied, “No, I think elite gymnasts are pretty much on their own as far as competing on a regular basis. The collegiate gymnast seems to have more balance and I definitely love the idea of being part of a team and the friendship and closeness that teammates have as they work together as [a] team towards winning as a group. I think that would be missing if I went the elite route.”

Darian added, “When those times come and you find yourself wanting to spend time with [your] friends outside of the gym and doing other fun stuff or activities that [you] mostly miss based on [your] schedule, that is when you know you truly love this sport because when you get out there on the floor, it hits you that this is where you are supposed to be, and it’s all worth it.”



Destiny Cobbs is a freshman competing in NCAA gymnastics at University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. “Training has been going well,” Destiny told Full Twist. “Our practices involve lots of high energy music and encouragement from all teammates. We are extremely close, which helps to cheer others up if they are having a bad day.”

A former Level 9 gymnast, Destiny told us about her goals and new skills for this season. “This season I am hoping to contribute to our team score on beam; I have a new series and a new dismount,” she noted. “As well as keep the team positive and upbeat throughout the entire season.”

Destiny added, “I really enjoy the quote ‘Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game’ because there are always going to be obstacles in anything you do, but as long as you do your best and work your absolute hardest, you can accomplish anything.”



Georgia Dabritz is a member of the NCAA gymnastics team at the University of Utah. Since she began competing for Utah in 2012, she has established herself as one of the top collegiate gymnasts. “Training has been going very well, both for myself and the team,” Georgia told Full Twist. “We are prepared and ready for the season to start! We have put a lot of hard work [into] this preseason and are excited to finally get to show it off!”

Georgia is a 10-time All-American, and by the end of the 2014 season, she’d hit 130 of her 139 NCAA routines. “Personally, my goals for this season are to remain consistent throughout the season on vault, bars, and floor, and also to break into the beam line up,” she told us. (After this interview was conducted, she did begin competing on beam.) “As a team we are looking to defend our Pac-12 Championship title this year and make it back into the Super Six competition. From watching my team’s high capabilities I am confident that these goals are very attainable this year.”

The 2013 NCAA Championships uneven bars silver medalist mentioned that she doesn’t have plans to debut any new skills this year. “I am looking to just gain more consistency on the skills I have been competing,” Georgia explained. “I do have some skills that can be performed in some competitions, such as my Comaneci on bars, and my yurchenko 1 ½ on vault. Although I have not competed them in every past competition, I am hoping that I will get to perform them a lot more in my final season.”

A former elite gymnast who competed at the 2009 and 2010 Visa Championships, Georgia said, “As of now I do not have any plans to return to elite gymnastics. I am content just being a supporter of elite gymnastics and not competing with the current elites.”

Georgia also told us, “I think the Full Twist readers should keep a close eye on the 2015 Utah gymnastics team, the Perfect Storm is coming!”



Molly Frack is a U.S. junior elite artistic gymnast from Parkettes Gymnastics in Allentown, Pennsylvania. At the 2014 P&G Championships, she competed on vault, uneven bars, and balance beam. “[Training is going] very well,” Molly told Full Twist. “We are working on new skills and routine parts!”

On the subject of her gymnastics goals, Molly told us, “A short-term goal for me is to make it to a national team camp and make the national team this year. A long-term goal for me is to make the World team and of course every gymnast’s dream, to make it to the Olympics!”

Molly, who will turn 14 years old in February, mentioned that she is working on several exciting new skills for 2015. “[On] bars I’m working a Weiler, Maloney, and a toe hecht,” she explained. “On beam I am working [a] switch ring, Arabian, and front tucks. On floor I’m working double fronts, [a] 3 ½, and double layouts. For vault I’m working toward a double.”

Molly told us that her next competition will be the Parkettes Invitational at the end of January. When asked what she’d like to tell the Full Twist readers, she added, “All I would like to say is follow your dreams and never give up! Always believe in yourself and try your hardest!”



Cassidy Girolamo is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from New England Gymnastics Express in Connecticut. At the 2014 Eastern Championships, she placed 19th in the all-around. “My training has been going really great,” Cassidy told Full Twist. “I am working hard at perfecting my old skills and learning new skills. Already I have obtained two new skills which I’m looking forward to competing in the near future (round-off, back handspring 2 ½ twist on floor and double layout on bars).”

The 14-year-old explained her gymnastics goals: “In the short-term I am looking forward to having a successful first-year Level 10 season and qualifying to Regionals and J.O.’s. My long-term goals are to obtain a Division I gymnastics scholarship and placing at J.O. Nationals.”

Cassidy placed fourth on floor exercise at the NorthStars Garden State Classic on January 10th, where she competed her front handspring double twisting front layout for the first time. She isnow looking ahead to her next meets. “I’m off to the Hilton Head Invitational in South Carolina (January 17th) and I round out January by competing at the Parkettes Invitational (January 30-Feb. 1),” she told us.

When asked if she might try elite gymnastics, Cassidy remarked, “I have been training the elite program at our gym and this past July I participated in the National Qualifier at the Ranch. Unfortunately a minor injury kept me from competing all events and performing all of my difficulty, but I loved the experience and am still training the routines with the possibility of trying to qualify again this season.”

Cassidy added, “I find that in this sport you have to love what you are doing and give it your all. You will have good days and bad days but if you love what you are doing, in the end the good outweighs the bad.”


Taylor Lawson is a U.S. junior elite artistic gymnast from Parkettes Gymnastics. At the 2014 Secret U.S. Classic, she tied for 24th in the all-around. “My training is going very well,” Taylor told Full Twist. “I am upgrading every event.”

Born in 1999, Taylor is now a first-year senior and eligible for the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow. “This season I am very determined to make the national team and go on international assignments,” she remarked.

Taylor has many new skills in the work for the upcoming season. “I am training double layouts and double pike Arabians on floor,” she revealed. “[I’m also training a] stalder Maloney pak to toe shoot Maloney bail sequence on bars and toe hechts. On beam I am training back tuck fulls and double pike dismounts. On vault I am training a yurchenko double full.” The next competition on Taylor’s schedule will be the Parkette Invitational.

Taylor added, “One thing I would like to let Full Twist readers know [is] to believe in yourself and you will accomplish greatness!”


Catherine Lyons is one of the top junior elite artistic gymnasts from Great Britain. She trains at Europa Gymnastics with her coach Rochelle Douglas. “My training has been a [bit] slow,” Catherine told Full Twist. “Unfortunately at the beginning of September I mistimed a shap on bars and gave myself concussion. Following the advice of an expert I was kept out the gym completely for almost two months. [I only came] back in to the gym first week of November.”

Eligible for Rio 2016, Catherine still has one year left as a junior. At the 2014 European Championships, she won the gold medal on floor exercise in addition to placing second with her team and fourth in the all-around. “I have been very fortunate in the past not suffering from any injuries so this has been a real test for me,” commented Catherine. “During my time off I grew and lots of niggles have crept in, I think due to the fact my body was completely inactive for so long. So I have been spending time building back my fitness, and then slowly building back my skill level.”

Catherine is extremely well-known throughout the gymnastics world for her highly artistic routines. “I don’t create them, Rochelle (my coach) creates my routines, the concept, and choses the music,” Catherine explained. “She is very particular about how things must be performed and we are expected to perform our dance in training every session like we [are] competing. If I perform a clean routine but effort lacks on my dance it won’t be counted. I also have a great ballet teacher (Abi Leonard) and fortunately with the help of the UK sport funding I now receive, we have been able to have sessions with her more regularly; last year I was having 2 x 40-minute slots of one-on-one classical ballet a week. I’ve heard a rumour Rochelle will now be upping that to three times—it’s hard work. I think all these things combined help bring together my routines and also my confidence to perform them.”

Rochelle Douglas told us that Catherine has changed her floor routine for the upcoming season. “We felt the pressure when deciding which way to go after the popularity of her last floor [routine],” she explained. “I spoke to her last week about how she feels and [she said she] is excited about performing it, but very nervous as the floor has a lot of meaning to her and me, and she hopes people like it as much as we do and can see the story behind it.”

On the subject of her next competition, Catherine told us, “I will compete at the English Championships in March. I may or may not compete on all four pieces, as I’m still not back to full fitness yet.” Addressing her upgrades for 2015, she added, “Our plans have obviously had to change, but before I had the time-out, I had consolidated some upgrades on bars and beam so I’m hoping I will get those back in time for the English [Championships]. But I think floor and vault will take more time as I’m still not back fully on those pieces.” The English Championships will be Catherine’s first competition in ten months.

When asked if there was anything she’d like to tell the Full Twist readers, Catherine responded, “Just thank you for all the support people give me. I’m really enjoying my journey through gymnastics and my current setback of being out of the gym environment for so long has made me even more determined to succeed. I would like to say a big thank you to all my current sponsors, coaches, and gym club who help look after me, leaving me to be able to just focus on my training. Thank you: UK sport funding, Quatro leotards, Gymnastics Planet, and Europa Gymnastics Center.”



Haley Pitou is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from New Hampshire Academy of Artistic Gymnastics. At the 2014 Utah State Championships, she placed fourth in the all-around. “Training has been going great!” Haley told Full Twist. “I’m working out of an injury I acquired last season and it’s feeling so much better. All my routines have come a long way, so I’m very grateful for that. I also have been working a bunch of new skills I hope to have meet-ready as soon as possible.”

At the Brestyan’s Invitational on January 19th, Haley placed second in the all-around and also on vault and floor exercise. Interestingly, Haley helps choreograph her own floor routines. “The current routine I have on floor was choreographed by Jaime Wysong,” Haley explained. “She told me to look at other routines and make a list of moves or poses that I thought looked good. I had a lot of ideas for my music and she helped me tie them all together. It’s such a fun process because you get to show your style and personality. Normally a floor routine takes a few days to create and learn, but in my case, we choreographed it in about two hours. I’m very grateful I got to work with Jaime, as she is an amazing choreographer.”

The 15-year-old shared her gymnastics goals with us: “My short-term goals consist of performing each meet to the best of my ability. I’m a perfectionist and so every detail of my lines, form and landings are very important to me. As for long-term goals, I hope to qualify for [J.O.] Nationals this year in Des Moines, Iowa. I also dream of competing for a Division I College when I graduate in 2017.”

When asked about trying elite gymnastics, Haley remarked, “I actually did try elite a couple years back and although it didn’t quite work out, I am very blessed to [have] been able to compete among such amazing gymnasts and experience the vibe of an elite meet.”

Haley had some inspirational words for the Full Twist readers: “Many of these readers are gymnasts [themselves] and I want to let them know that hard work, persistence, dedication, and passion will drive any sport they would like to do; and for my fellow gymnasts, allow you to go and compete wherever you dream of. Always stay positive and always remember that you are capable of a plethora of goals.”



Adriana Popp is a U.S. junior elite artistic gymnast from Girls In Co-Operation Gymnastics Training Center in Pennsylvania. At the 2014 P&G Championships, she placed 29th in the all-around. “[Training] is starting to get a little intense because we are getting ready for meets in February,” Adriana told Full Twist.

Adriana, who is coached by Sandra Greiner, told us that her short-term goal is “to qualify to P&G Championships and place in the top 6.” As for long-term goals, she explained, “We really try to just focus on what is going on now.”

On the subject of new skills for 2015, Adriana mentioned a few upgrades: “Full twisting layout series and Arabian on beam [and] full-in double pike on floor.”

Adriana said that her next competitions will be the Buckeye Classic and the WOGA Classic, and she added, “I hope you all cheer for me during my season.”



Emily Richardson is a sophomore competing in NCAA gymnastics at University of California, Berkeley. “Over the past couple of months training has been fun and exciting working toward our season,” Emily told Full Twist. “I have been learning some new things and training for all four events. I’ve been working hard to be ready to compete and to be ready to do my best for the team.”

Emily revealed her gymnastics goals for the season: “I want to get ‘one day better’ every day when I am training in the gym. I hope to be able to compete on all four events eventually this year. I plan to go out every meet and do what I need to do to help the team succeed. A goal for me and the team is to make it all the way to Nationals! I believe that we have the talent and the team work ethic to make it and do well.”

A former Level 10 gymnast with many accolades on her resume, Emily has several new skills she’s looking to debut this year. “I debuted my double layout on bars at the NorCal Classic. Last season, I only competed on bars, but this season I’m looking forward to competing in more events and showcasing my double Arabian pass on floor, and my vault, which is a layout Kasamatsu.”

Emily added, “I think it’s really important that Full Twist readers and gym fans in general know how passionate our entire Cal gymnastics team is [and] how awesome our culture is! I love the team energy we have in and out of the gym together and each and every day we are becoming closer and closer. I know that every girl on this team has my back and I love them all to the moon and back! This team is my family and I am forever thankful to be a part of it! As a team, we are committed to doing the best we can at each meet and making Nationals, so I hope people follow along in our journey. There is so much to look forward to and so much great gymnastics ahead.”



Eythora Thorsdottir is a senior elite artistic gymnast from the Netherlands. At the 2013 European Youth Olympic Festival, she showcased her elegant gymnastics en route to placing 9thin the all-around and second on balance beam. Soon after the Festival, Eythora sustained an injury but is already back to competition. “Training is good!” Eythora told Full Twist. “My trainer and I have been focusing on building up my strength and condition. I’ve been working on adding more difficulty in my routines and getting everything cleaner.”

The second-year senior made her return to competition at Elite Gym Massilia in France in November. Eythora placed 4th in the all-around, with her highest score coming on floor exercise. “I’m working on some new skills [for 2015], but I don’t know when they’ll be ready to use in a competition,” she noted.

Eythora discussed her gymnastics goals with us: “My short-term goals are competing at the European Championships in Montpellier and the World Championships in Glasgow,” she said. “My long-term goals are having my routines stable and steadily adding more difficulty to them. And my dream of course is to compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.”

When asked about her next competition, Eythora told us, “My next competition is on February 22nd that is the Sidijk toernooi [in the Netherlands]. This competition is a preparation for the European Championships qualification. In this competition I’ll try out some new skills and after that my trainer and I will decide how my routines will be for the European Championships qualifications.”

Eythora wanted to tell the Full Twist readers, “I’d just like to say thank you to all the people around me who support me in reaching my goals. Especially my mom and dad for always being there for me when I need them. And of course I’d like to thank my trainer for always pushing me to the limit. Gymnastics is a beautiful and difficult sport which I’m proud to be part of. I enjoy every moment of it.”



Isabella Tsark is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from Precision Gymnastics in California. At the 2014 Region 1 Championships, she placed 24th in the all-around and 14th on vault and bars. “My training has been going well,” Isabella told Full Twist. “I’m currently gearing up for season and putting all my routines together!”

Isabella has competed as a Level 10 gymnast since 2013. “My biggest short-term goal is having a memorable season for my last year competing as a J.O gymnast,” she told us. “It would be great if I could place at State and Regionals and qualify to Nationals, but I am mainly concerned with performing my best! My long-term goals center around my career as a [collegiate] gymnast. Next fall I will be attending Seattle Pacific University, where I will compete for their gymnastics team. I am so excited to be part of such an amazing program, and I hope to make many positive contributions to the team in my time there!”

On the subject of debuting new skills this year, Isabella noted, “This season I am mainly focusing on perfecting the routines I already have. However, I will be adding in a few new skills on beam and floor. On beam I hope to compete my front tuck and switch leap straddle jump to layout step out, and on floor I hope to put in my double pike.”

Isabella mentioned that her first competition is at the end of January. “I will be competing at the Poway San Diego Classic,” she explained.

The 17-year-old added, “I want to wish everyone a happy and safe 2015! Thank you guys for reading!”

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Addison “Addy” Womeldorph is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from Metroplex Gymnastics in Texas. At the 2014 Western Championships, she placed 37th in the all-around and eighth on uneven bars. She also finished 10th in the all-around and first on bars at the 2014 State Championships. “My training has been going great,” Addy told Full Twist. “It has been really exciting learning a lot of new skills and now putting those skills in my routines. I have been working on new skills; vault: yurchenko layout and yurchenko layout ½; bars: shootover-uphill and blind full double tuck; beam: back handspring back pike and round off 1 ½; floor: front layout-front full and double pike.”

Addy told us, “My short-term goals are to have a successful and healthy Level 10 season and place [in the] top 15 at regionals or better. My long-term goal is to get a full-ride gymnastics scholarship to a Division I college.”

The 13-year-old recently competed at the Metroplex Challenge on February 1st, where she scored 36.775 in her debut as a Level 10.

When asked if she might try elite gymnastics, Addy commented, “Well, this past summer I started training with a group of elite hopefuls. I have been training for Level 10 and going elite is up to my coaches.”

Addy also gave some advice to our readers: “I would like to tell the readers to just keep going. Everybody gets better if they keep at it. I have been doing gymnastics since I was three and some days are easier than others but at the end of each day, I love this sport and I love what I am becoming and where I am going.”

All pictures of Addy Womeldorph are courtesy of Carlina Womeldorph via Gym-Style.com.

Special thanks to all the gymnasts for chatting with us! Stay tuned for Part 14, which will include updates with Anna Pavlova, Christina Desiderio, and others!

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