A crowd of dedicated fans at the UCLA Gymnastics Team’s Championship Celebration on campus; I’m standing toward the left side wearing a white cap. Photo courtesy of newsroom.ucla.edu
I had the pleasure of attending a rally celebrating the UCLA gymnasts winning the national championship in such an exciting fashion yesterday.
Someone commented to me that Christine Peng Peng Lee’s title-clinching perfect ten on the balance beam on April 21st in Chaifetz Arena was akin to “hitting a walk-off grand slam”.
There was two particular factors in those Bruins winning their seventh NCAA title that I forgot to mention…
- The fact that they stayed healthy, and…
- The fact that they had more than one go-to gymnast to get the scores needed, Peng Peng being the main one but also Katelyn Ohashi and Kyla Ross.
Nearly every year since winning their previous championship in 2010, Valorie Kondos Field’s (“Miss Val”) Band of Bruins had at lost at least one key gymnast due to injury, which maimed their chances at a title.
That didn’t happen this season as Peng Peng and other key gymnasts like Ohashi, Ross, Felicia Hano, the Glenn twins (Anna and Grace), Nia Dennis and Pauline Tratz didn’t sustain any injuries that knocked them out of action.
Highlights from the Bruin gymnasts officially thanking the fans in the form of the celebration rally held at UCLA yesterday, courtesy of YouTube.
As for those go-to gymnasts leading the team to glory…
Throughout my experience of being involved in sports in some firm, whether playing, coaching, or watching, I noticed that the one thing that almost all championship teams had in common was that they had at least one “go-to” athlete.
Where if a baseball of a softball team needed a game-winning hit or a game-saving strikeout, he/she provided it.
If a football team needed key yardage, a stop, or a winning touchdown, he got that.
If a basketball team needed a game-winning shot, he/she provided that; Kobe Bryant was a master of such during his career with the Lakers.
That UCLA’s gymnasts had more than one “go-to” person – not just Peng Peng, even though her heroics on those bars and especially that beam in St. Louis were the difference makers – was in my view the true sign of a championship program.
As a member of Bruin Nation and an enormous fan of that gymnastics team, I felt that I had to be at that rally held in Bruin Plaza on the campus yesterday, the championship trophy sitting on a table on a stage in the corner.
It was a good time, as Miss Val, her assistants, and several team members made comments and I chatted with various team members afterwards, giving them props for their conquest of the college gymnastics world.
And it should go without saying that I’m very much looking forward to seeing those young ladies commence with defending their newly won crown in about eight months, when the 2019 season begins.
UCLA’s new champions getting ready to go to the rally celebrating them. Photo courtesy of newsroom.ucla.edu