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The Last Quest: College Gymnastics

At first glance and especially if we’re not familiar with college gymnastics, it might look just like its Olympic counterpart. There are competitions on the same apparatus and the same routines. However, if you looked close enough, you’ll notice that although they are very similar, some elite gymnasts’ last quest—college gymnastics—is totally different.

Why did we call it the last quest? Read on.

Elite gymnasts are national and international-level competitors who focus solely on their sport. They compete during their teen years and usually retire before they turn 20. The usual trajectory is elite competition followed by National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) competition, although some gymnast may completely retire or become professional instead of competing on NCAA teams. On few occasions, some gymnasts have competed in elite-level competitions like Olympics while being a member of an NCAA gymnastics team, like Simone Biles who was tied to Bruins before she decided to go pro.

This is why it is the last quest—it is elite gymnasts’ go to if they are not ready to stop competing in the sport just yet but their peak years have passed, they didn’t want to go pro (since it is not for everyone), or if they are still unsure of what to take next as their career.

NCAA Trophy

Why College Gymnastics?

Now you might wonder why does all this top-shelf talent bother with an event that gets so little attention? For some, they do it for the free scholarships. For others, it is the teamwork that is missing from the elite scene and competition. However, most of the athletes who choose to play collegiate just wanted to finish a sport they started since they were young and try to figure out what comes next.

2008 Olympic alternate and world medalist Ivana Hong once said in an interview with the podcast GymCastic that “Gymnastics doesn’t last all your life,” which is just about right. Their peak years come at teenage years, usually around sixteen to nineteen. This is the time where their bodies are light and small, barely developed yet. So once they hit puberty and grow tall enough not to be able to easily do skills anymore, they enter college gymnastics. This is why by the time they arrive at college meets, they’ve grown taller and look womanly.

One champion who has chosen to play in the NCAA is 2003 world champion Hollie Vise. Although she has finished college with flying colors on her sports, there are still some regrets. She was quoted saying that, “There was no way I was going to be Elite Hollie again. I mean, I had gone through puberty. I grew up.”

However, this is not the case all the time. Some other girls figure out how to perform with their new bodies after some time. It was just a matter of getting to know one’s body dimensions.

The Last Quest: College Gymnastics

College vs Elite Gymnastics

There are some ways that college and elite gymnastics are different, and we’ve listed them here:

1. The Perfect 10 – Elite gymnasts receive scores like 14.44 and 15.23, while women’s NCAA gymnastics still uses the perfect 10 scoring system, where the highest score is 10. As long as a gymnast meets certain minimum requirements, her routine will start from 10.0 and the judges will mark down from it. Perfect marks are rare, but it does happen.

In this kind of scoring system, there should be no error at all for a gymnast to win an event. Since everyone has a perfect score already, a simple pointed toe could make a difference. Very small margins often determine championship outcomes. It added more pressure to the gymnast to not make a mistake.

2. The Fun – College gymnastics is more fun than elite gymnastics. If elite gymnastics is a person, you might call it stuck up, or too restrained. Elite competitions has to be taken too seriously and all about tricks. In collegiate meets, however, there are a lot more room for expression and choreography. Not only is the gymnast having fun, but also the audiences. Teammates usually cheer on their member while performing, which is not usual in an elite competition.

3. The Teamwork – Elite gymnasts are, in essence, a solo competitor even if they belong to a team. Much of their time is spent on individual training and improving own routines, so there are not a lot of interaction with teammates. The focus on individual awards has this effect, especially since said awards are emphasized on huge competitions like Olympics.

Conversely, NCAA gymnastics is usually more focused on the team as the overall team total is most important. Each gymnast is part of a greater whole, and this brings on support and teamwork. Olympian Bridget Jones even said that “In elite, there’s not a whole lot of laughing. In college, you put on a show.”

4. The Training – A regular elite gymnast trains for 40 hours per week because the sport is their focus. As a college gymnast, on the other hand, they are only allowed to train 20 hours per week as they also have to maintain their grades. This means that they have shorter training periods, but more competition. Competitions are typically what keeps them in shape despite the capped 20 hours training time.

These are some of the reasons why elite gymnasts choose to take the last quest—college gymnastics.

Now that we have discussed about going professional and going to college gymnastics, have you figured out what course you’re going to take? Follow our social medias to read the next article and learn anything gymnastics related! Looking for a school that offers various kinds of classes and gymnastics for kids? Then you’re on the right path, Bianka Panova Academy is definitely the school for you!

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