Bending over backwards onto the beams

White, dusty chalk handprints flourish throughout the arena in remembrance of the bravery and courage displayed by both the gymnasts of today and the past. From flipping upside down to tumbling on mats, gymnasts face obstacles everyday, but continue to persevere into competitions. No gym is found empty during the months of Jan. through May as spectators, judges and parents round up to behold the hard work of gymnasts’ practice.

After attending a UCLA meet when she was younger, Ambal Kailasam, senior, knew gymnastics was going to become one of her biggest passions. “Sometimes you can do skills perfectly and then the next day it can be completely upside down and you won’t be able to do any of the skills at all, so maintaining a mindset of looking at the bigger picture and not focusing on how something may be going wrong is important to keep in mind for gymnastics,” Kailasam said.

The immense pressure of winning often weighs down on athletes, but Avalon Cope, junior, takes a deep breath and remembers that no matter the outcome, she will be proud as long as she gives it her all. “I always remind myself that I’m doing it for me and to have fun. At times it feels like my life depends on [winning] but it really doesn’t and so I just remind myself that I know what I’m doing, I put in the hours, [and] I put in the hard work,” Cope said. “I just have to trust my body and trust my mind that I know what I’m doing and not let any outside factors get in my head.”

From “Mommy and Me” classes to the gymnasium, Allison Galler, sophomore, had always been a hyper child ready for any challenge that came her way. Throughout the years, the fear that comes with flying off the bars or completing an aerial constantly lingers in the back of her mind, but Galler’s mindset has grown to acknowledge and dismiss the risks she takes everyday. “Mentally, it’s really hard trying to get yourself to do something and physically, your body will start hurting [but] no matter how I do, I always put my best into it,” Galler said.

While most athletes find themselves drawn to the events they are best at, Cope enjoys the challenge of conquering her weaknesses. “I find bars the most fun [because] they’re different compared to any of the other [events] and it’s my most challenging event and so I’m drawn to it,” Cope said. “I get really frustrated by [bars] but the feeling of overcoming them and getting a new skill is so worth it.”

Gymnastics is not just a sport, but it is also a learning environment that leaves gymnasts both physically and mentally stronger in many aspects. “In addition to all the physical balance and coordination I have from gymnastics, I think the life lessons that it teaches you, like determination, discipline, respect, and looking at the bigger picture, all of those things are hugely important and they’re definitely going to play a part in my success later,” Kailasam said.