So you have followed all of the collegiate gymnastics teams on their journeys to the NCAA Nationals…but did you ever wonder what sets Olympic gymnasts apart from college gymnasts?
The Team: College gymnastics is ALL about getting decked out in your team colors and representing your entire school. Your teammates become your best friends, and many of them end up rooming together throughout their college years. There’s nothing like having a roommate that also has to wake up at 5:30am for practice! When training for the Olympics, however, you are all on your own. Sure, the Olympics is technically a team sport, where four women will represent the USA. However, the journey to get to that position is all about flying solo. It is you and your coach getting you prepared for the world of the elite.
The Training: Since elite gymnasts train individually with their coaches, they got a lot more one on one time for corrections. Collegiate athletes unfortunately do not receive as much of this because the coaches have to focus on 20 girls, not just one at a time. Olympic-ready gymnasts train routine after routine every single day. College gymnasts may run their routines a few times, and move onto the next one. Almost all elite athletes who hope to make the US team compete in all four events for a greater chance of impressing the national coordinators. Collegiate gymnasts tend to specialize on certain events and not compete on others. There are only a few girls per team that are allowed to compete in the all around (or on all four events).
The Time Commitment: College gymnasts typically have practice 20 hours a week. Elite gymnasts commit their entire lives to the sport. Most elite gymnasts are home schooled from a very early age to be able to spend the most amount of time they can at the gym. Typically, elites have practice early in the morning, take a break for school work, practice again in the afternoon….and get home just in time to take a shower and go to bed. In Romania, the elite gymnasts who are training for the Olympics stay bunked together in dorms. They wake up at the same time and complete the same amount of training and schoolwork together. Talk about team bonding!
Well there you have it, folks! Two completely different ways of competing, but two wonderful ways of competing. You should start thinking realistically about what kind of gymnastics future you strive for to make your preparation more focused on your ultimate dreams in this sport.