A team picture of some of Westwood’s best athletes. Photo courtesy of uclabruins.com
A SALUTE TO A TEAM THAT HAS BECOME ONE OF MY PERSONAL FAVORITES, THEY ARE SO MUCH FUN TO WATCH
Not that long ago, I told someone that there are three teams in my sports universe that I am a true fan of.
Three teams that I feel any emotion about depending on their fortunes,
Where I am in a happy, celebratory mood when they win and where I get upset when they lose or suffer any setbacks:
1. The Los Angeles Dodgers,
2. The UCLA Bruins Football team,
A team from my alma mater that over the past nearly decade and a half, I have grown quite fond of and which it has been – and will continue to be – a personal pleasure to be a fan of…
The UCLA Women’s Gymnastics Program
Danusia Francis wowing the fans on the balance beam. Photo courtesy of DailyBruin.com
Since I started attending their meets on a regular basis in Pauley Pavilion on UCLA’s campus in 2003, I honesty can’t think of any other sport or sporting event that I have watched where I have had more fun or have been more entertained.
And not just because these Bruins are considered among the elite programs in college gymnastics, having won the national championship six times, including four in a five-year span from 2000-2004, and are currently ranked seventh in the nation.
Considering my background as a sports fan, having been to fifty Dodger games dating back to 1978 and roughly 120 UCLA football games dating back to my student days in 1988, including 15 Crosstown Rivalry clashes with USC, to say that the Bruin gymnastics meets have been the most fun for me…
Well, that is saying something.
Many people agree with me, as evidenced by the fact that these Bruins have the highest home attendance among the 21 sports that wear blue, gold, and the letters U, C, L, and A on their chests outside of football and men’s basketball.
This conviction was reinforced in the three meets I went to this year so far, two of them – against top five teams Alabama and Utah – being decided in the meet’s last routines as those young athletes, led by Valorie Kondos Field in her 26th year as head coach, certainly provided some excitement, to say the least.
Sophina DeJesus electrifying the crowd – and eventually the world – with her floor exercise routine. Photo courtesy of totalprosports.com
Of course I can’t write an article like this without giving some attention to a Bruin gymnast who has become quite the sensation over the past week or so, with a floor routine performed against Utah that absolutely blew up on social media, making Sophina DeJesus a household name:
And of course Sophina’s not alone in UCLA’s arsenal, not by a long way, as there are many on that gymnastics team who are vital and essential to their chances of a 7th national championship, among them beam specialists Christine Peng Peng Lee and Danusia Francis, whose routines on that four-inches wide and four-foot high thing are incredible to behold:
It is on the floor, however, that UCLA has been dominant as they are ranked first in the nation in that event.
Sadiqua Bynum doing her winning floor routine. Photo courtesy of college.usatoday.com
Angi Cipra and Sadiqua Bynum have been especially outstanding in that event as Bynum’s routine has been the difference in the Bruins’ wins over #4 Alabama and #5 Utah, while Cipra’s program is so entertaining, even the crowd gets involved:
Speaking of the crowd, it was particularly spirited during the most recent meet against Oregon State as the students and the UCLA Alumni Band got into an “Eight-Clap” (the Bruins’ traditional cheer) contest, an example of the fun that is had during the meets.
The immediate future for this Bruin squad?
It’s quite bright as among the five teams they have left to face are Georgia and Stanford on March 6th and Oklahoma in the regular season finale on March 13th, three programs ranked in the nation’s top 12 with Oklahoma claiming the #1 ranking.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have an absolute blast watching these young athletes, who not only excel at what they do on the vault, uneven bars, beam and floor, but are also great role models for the young girls who flock to the meets – check out the crowds who gather around them for autographs afterwards – and are the epitome of the term “Student-Athlete” as they are frequently among the teams at UCLA with the best grade point averages.
It’s safe to say that this UCLA Gymnastics team is an absolute credit, asset and honor to the UCLA community and to Bruin Nation.
It’s also safe to say that I can’t wait for the next time this wonderful Bruin squad – the only college gymnastics team within 350 miles as the next closest squads reside at San Jose State and Arizona State – graces Pauley; Saturday, February 27th against the Arizona State Sun Devils.
If you want to see for yourself just how outstanding the team is, and experience the thrill that these meets bring, go to UCLA’s website, UCLABruins.com, for information.
I will certainly be there, and I hope you can make it as well.
Another pic of the Bruin Gymnastics team outside of Pauley Pavilion. Photo courtesy of uclabruins.com