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Ask The Bruins - Gymnastics
Courtesy: UCLA Athletics  
Release:  02/28/2005
Throughout the 2005 gymnastics season, UCLABruins.com will be conducting "Ask the Bruins" sessions with different members of the UCLA gymnastics team.

This week's featured guests were former junior national bars champion Lindsey Vanden Eykel, former Canadian beam champion and two-time World Championships competitor Ashley Peckett, and first-year assistant coach and three-time NCAA champion Marshall Nelson. And, as always, head coach Valorie Kondos Field was on hand to accept questions.

Don't forget - the Bruins will be hosting Florida on Sunday, Mar. 6 at 2 pm in the final home meet of the season.


John (Los Angeles): First, let me say I have FINALLY been out to Pauley to see you ladies perform and let me say I am so glad I did. You all represent UCLA so well with such style and grace, you should all be very proud of yourselves! Now for the question I have always wanted to know and it is for everybody - where in the rotation would you rather have the beam - first, last or somewhere in the middle? (Personally, the darn thing scares the begeezes out of me!) Thanks and good luck the rest of the season - all the way through the NCAA Championships!
Peckett: I would rather do beam second. My favorite rotation is bars, beam, floor, vault. You have one event to get out your jitters before doing beam, and when beam's over, you don't have to think about it and you get to enjoy your next two events.
Lindsey: Hi, John. I personally like it when the beam is in the middle somewhere. However, starting on beam can also be good because if you start out strong it paves the way for the rest of the competition. Ending on beam is alright too, but not extremely preferable.
Marshall: Thanks for finally making your way to Pauley to cheer on the Bruins! We're glad you made it. Hopefully you enjoyed yourself, and next time, BRING ALL YOUR FRIENDS!!! As for your question - coming from the men's side of the sport, beam is well, let's just say, I am glad I'm not the beam coach :) Personally, I believe competing beam somewhere in the middle is the best - you basically want to be as calm and collected as possible - for obvious reasons :)! Thanks for coming to the meet, and hope to see you Sunday!!
Miss Val: Ha ha. That's funny that someone finally asked this question. We all kind of dread having the beam first or last rotation... however... we've won 4 NCAA Championships either starting or finishing on beam. So - I guess if we've got a good beam team, and we've prepared well, it doesn't really matter in what order we compete.

Martha, Cleveland: Hi Lindsey, How are you handling the transition from national competition to NCAA?
Lindsey: It was quite an adjustment at first, but I am really adjusting well. Having competitions every weekend was definitely different for me, but I also love how we get to perform so much.

Alicia (Boston): Miss Val, in your career, which of your athletes/former athletes would top the list in the following categories: 1. Most powerful tumbler and/or vaulter. 2. Best bar swinger. 3. Most solid beam worker. 4. Best entertainer/performer on FX. 5. Best overall competitive attitude. 6. Most intelligent student-athlete. 7. Who had the whole package. Thanks!
Miss Val: Wow - this is hard to answer. I could give the top three in each category but let's see... Most powerful - Dantzscher, Antolin, Tasha. Best bars - Dantzscher, Doni Thompson. Beam - Maloney or Bhardwaj. Best entertainer/performer - Heidi Moneymaker. Most intelligent student athlete - as an athlete ... Maloney. As the combo student-athlete - Kate. Whole package ... Onnie Willis. I know I'm forgetting someone, but those are the athletes that immediately come to mind.

Stephanie (Santa Monica, CA): Hi Ashley, I was wondering what made you choose UCLA? I'm sure there were a variety of things you looked at, but was it a big factor having Yvonne and Kate here? Good luck in your upcoming meets!
Peckett: Definitely having Yvonne and Kate here was something that made it more appealing. I knew more about this program than any other school because of that. Also, having a number of athletes from my club team come here, like Stella Umeh and Lena Degteva, and having my club coaches (Svetlana Degteva and Alex Bard) maintain a strong relationship with the coaches here also influenced my decision. The balance betweeen academics and outstanding athletics cannot be rivaled by any other school. Plus there's the California sunshine!

Stuart (Los Angeles): Lindsey, you came across the country to attend UCLA. Why did you choose UCLA, and are you glad you did? Thanks for making that choice! You have tremendous talent, energy, and personality!
Lindsey: I chose UCLA because it had the pefect package of gymnastics and adcademics. The gymnastics team is excellent, as well as the coaching staff, and the academics I feel are superior to many other institutions. I am extremely glad I decided to come here. :)

Leslie, LA: Miss Val, UCLA is talented enough to beat UGA without Kate Richardson, unfortunately, tentitive landings and mistakes throughout made the difference in what turned out to be a tight meet. I've heard a lot about "playing to win" and "playing not to lose". In your opinion was the team playing to win this weekend? From the stands, the team looked like they were having a great time (in front of what seemed to be the largest regular season crowd in recent memory), but in my opinion they didn't look intense or focused and seemed to lack any spark or fire. In contrast, UGA was aggressive and scrappy and despite obvious frustrations with the scores dug in and won. What are your feelings about the meet and the teams performance?
Miss Val: I would say that you're pretty right on. However, I don't agree that we lacked intensity and focus. I would label it more as "trying to be perfect" instead of just "playing hard". It's really hard to get into "the zone" or get into a "groove" when you're forcing it. We simply need to PLAY HARD - and if we make mistakes, at least we won't have any regrets.

Michelle (Los Angeles): Lindsey, Congrats on a great start to your UCLA career - you're a blast to watch. What is your favorite event? You seem to have so much fun on the floor, but have been presented mainly as a bars specialist. Hope to see more of you next season!
Lindsey: My favorite event is bars and always has been. Haha. I hope that in the years to come I can eventually compete all-around. It's been a long road of recovery from my hamstring injury for a few years. I am working hard on getting my strength back so I can be a specialist on more than just bars.

Emily (Santa Monica): Ashley, other than winning the NCAA Championship last year, what has been your most memorable moment as a Bruin?
Peckett: There are a lot of memorable moments, but I would have to say winning at Georgia last year. We had two losses coming into that competition, and the whole team pulled together and had an amazing meet. That was my first experience of how college gymnastics was fun and rewarding.

Kylie (Santa Monica): This question is for Marshall. I was wondering if there are specific events that you, Chris, and Miss Val primarily coach? How is the coaching broken down? Thanks!
Marshall: Hi Kylie! Our basic coaching responsibilities see me on floor, Chris on Vault, and Miss Val on beam and choreography. Chris and I both contribute on bars. However, we are a pretty fluid staff and help out on other events quite regularly. It's great to work with people with whom you are compatible - it keeps things fun and interesting in the gym.

Jason (Garden Grove): Miss Val, with just a month and a half to go till NCAAs, do you think your team will pull it together in time to win again this year? It seems that this year has definitely been more bumpy than years past. Lindsey, what do you think is the main reason for all the success coming out of WOGA? (Carly, Hollie, Nastia) I hope to see you guys on top at NCAAs and I look forward to your last home meet. Go Bruins!!!
Miss Val: Hey Jason, thanks for coming to all of our home meets. Honestly, every year has its own unique challenges. This year's challenges may be different than last year's, and may be more visible to the fans, but I definitely feel that we have what it takes to vie for another NCAA title. The exciting part of our team that you can't see on a daily basis is our team's passion to work through our challenges. They are a fun team to coach.

Katy (Redondo Beach): For Lindsey You were known for your beautiful invert positions in Handstands on Bars - rivaling the famous and flexible Chinese gymnasts. Since you do not perform these skills now, is it a matter of simple element choice, or is this kind of move truly hard on the body over time? How do get this kind of flexibility in the first place?
Lindsey: We took them out because I had way too much bonus for college gymnastics. I am hoping to revamp my routine for next year and add some more skills from my previous bar routines. Inverts are not hard on my body. However, they do require a good amount of flexibility. My flexibility in my wrists helps me be able to do inverts well.

Janet, Fresno: Hi! I am a huge fan of Bruin Gymnastics but since I'm not near Los Angeles..I can't watch a lot of the meets. I know last year, many of the meets were televised on TV. However, so far none of the competitions have been shown on TV. Are there plans to air any of the competitions at all this season?
Miss Val: Our Pac-10 Championship meet will be on Fox Sports Net, and, of course, the NCAA Championships will be on CBS. This year, the local Fox Sports affiliate has decided to concentrate more on the UCLA-USC rivalry games, and since USC doesn't have a gymnastics team, that leaves us and a few other sports like softball out of the loop. We were fortunate last year to have a few of our away meets televised through their TV package, but it didn't work out as well this year. However, all of our home meets were broadcast via streaming video on our website, which is a really great feature that a lot of schools are employing now.

William - Irvine, CA: Two questions Coach Kondos or Marshall Nelson: 1) I've really enjoyed Kristen Maloney's gymnastics over her entire career. What kind of legacy does she leave as a UCLA gymnast? For Marshall Nelson: What's it like to go from a Nebraska NCAA championship competitor to an assistant coach at UCLA?
Miss Val: Maloney is a true LEGEND in the sport of gymnastics. She leaves the legacy with our team of being the toughest athlete we've ever had. Most people know that she endured a lot with her shin stress fracture for many years, but they don't know just how much pain and heartache she went through to be able to perform gymnastics again. She is an amazing athlete, physically and mentally. I'm excited to have her join our SeaWorld show this summer because our performers tumble on a fast track, where she can do just about any skill imaginable.
Marshall: In response to your first question: Kristen Maloney is a legend in her own right. The fact that UCLA has played such key role in the story of her career is a tribute to UCLA, Miss Val, and the kind of people this place attracts. She is a true champion. And your second question: I am proud to have competed for a University with the history, tradition, and excellence of Nebraska. The transition has been an easy one in that sense because both programs are very similar in their approach to excellence: work hard, train with intensity, and live with integrity. The results will speak for themselves.

Tammy (Toronto): Ashley, what do you miss most in Canada that you can't get in the U.S. (other than family and friends, of course)?
Peckett: Of course I miss family and friends most of all. Other than that, I would have to say I miss Smarties candies the most and other Cadbury chocolate bars.

Jenn, Santa Monica: Miss Val, In the two meets I've been to Jordan has sadly fallen off beam. She's a beautiful gymnast, but are you going to keep her in the lineup?
Miss Val: Absolutely I'm keeping Jordan in the line-up. You're right, she is a beautiful gymnast - and can only be accused of wanting it too badly. She just needs to get back to competing how she trains and she should be fine.

Dawnielle, Corona Del Mar, CA: Lindsey, Your bars are beautiful! I remember you used to do a beautiful yaeger - are you still able to do it? If you threw that instead of the tkachev, it would give us one more chance to see your perfectly done front giants... Easily already a highlight in your routine!
Lindsey: Thank you, Dawnielle. I did do a Jaeger before, and I might practice it again over the summer, but for consistency purposes this year we felt the Tkatchev was the best skill to choose.

Sean. Los Angeles.: Whats the deal with those football guys that come? They are pretty funny. how do you feel about them?
Miss Val: I think it's awesome that the football team is enjoying supporting our team. When I asked some of them why they come, they've answered that they are really impressed with how tough our athletes are. However, just when I think they understand gymnastics etiquette and how far they can push that line ... they come up with something new, or a new fan joins the group that hasn't gone through the learning curve. I don't see a lot of what they do - but I do hear about it. I can say they've been extremely respectful to me when I've asked them to stop doing something, especially those things that could result in someone getting hurt. With their numbers growing, a member of our athletic dept. met with them this week to let them know how much we appreciate their support, and to lay out the guidelines.
Peckett: I love them! They are some of my best friends. We got to know them a little bit at the end of last season, and they got into gymnastics at nationals last year and couldn't wait to come to the meets this year. A few of the main ones - the "male groupies" and the referees - have gotten the rest of their team into the spirit. Although some people think their presence is controversial, they do everything in good fun and have no intentions of upsetting anyone. We're glad they're out there supporting us.
Marshall: I think it's great that other Bruins are showing their support. The Bruin family is made up of student-athletes not just "student-gymnasts", or "student-football players" etc. I love the fact that they get excited and respect our athletes enough to come show their support. That being said, they are learning how to be better fans. They have GREAT energy and they mean well, it may be just a bit misplaced at times. So let's encourage the support by helping them become better fans....not by crushing their spirit.

Ryan (NYC): Hey Miss Val! How is the team coming along with Calm Confidence this year? Will the team get where it needs to be- this team can deffinitely be great- hopefully they realize it. My question is- why has Courtney Walker gone down to a Yurchenko Layout on vault? She did such a beautiful Yurchenko Full at the Home meet against the other California teams.
Miss Val: Courtney's vault (full) just isn't consistent enough to compete without a lot of risk right now. She's working extremely hard to get consistent on it. It's one of those things where the more frustrated she gets the worse the vault gets. We're confident she'll be able to work through this - hopefully, before the end of season.

Ally: hey Lindsey thats my sisters name. anyways you are a great gymnast. what do you enjoy the most about college and college gymnastics Thanks Ally
Lindsey: There are a lot of things I enjoy. I love the team, and I like how we compete every weeeknd. It's good for your confidence. It's completely different from club, but I'm adjusting to it, and I really love having the social life, gymnastics and school combined together. Every day is really exciting, as well as every competition. College life is a blast.

Jen (Irvine): Marshall, I myself am from LA however went to the University of Nebraska. It was quite a transition! How has it felt for you moving from the midwest environment out to so. cal? Do you ever miss the midwest?
Marshall: Hi Jen. I love it out here! Nebraska was a great place to go to school, and I have plenty of good memories, great friends, and still lots of red in my wardrobe (none of which I would dream to wear around here of course) from my time there. I do miss the people of the midwest and being able to find a parking space in under 20 minutes. But I love the cultural diversity, opportunity, and the landscape Southern California has to offer!

Beth, Winsted: Have you achieve goals in college gymnastics and studies?
Peckett: I have been accomplishing my gymnastics goals just by being a part of this great team and contributing whatever I can. I have been doing well in school with classes and keeping my grades up. I'm pleased with how I'm doing in school, and I'm striving to maintain my normal high standards.

Amanda (Santa Monica): Question for either coach - I've seen Christie Tedmon hit her beam routine many times this season, yet the judges always seem to score her so low. Are there hidden deductions I'm not seeing? I couldn't believe it when they only scored her a 9.5 last weekend.
Miss Val: Christie missed her leap connection, so she only started from a 9.9. Besides the wobble on the first leap, then the resulting missing connection bonus, I think the rest of the deductions were little half-tenth issues. We added the popa to beef up her routine a bit, thinking that may be the reason for the low scores all season.

Michelle, Costa Mesa: Hi Lindsey! What was it like for you to watch Carly Patterson win the gold at the Olympics? And are you going to compete Floor Exercise again this season so we can see your awesome routine? =)
Lindsey: Hey Michelle. It was one of the most exciting days of my life when Carly won the all-around gold medal. I trained with her for a very long time, and to see one of my best friends win the Olympics was an amazing thrill and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She's a very hard worker and always has a positive attitude. She deserved every bit of her gold medal, and I was so proud of her and always will be. I'm not sure when I'll be doing floor again, but I would love to perform it again. I love to dance and perform to the audience. It's one of my favorite things in gymnastics.

Greg(Bloomington, IN): Coach Field, I wondered what your in-season weight training consisted of? Number days/wk, etc. thanks greg
Miss Val: In season we are doing from 40% to 60% of what we did in the fall pre-season, two to three times a week depending on what day of the weekend our meet falls on. We still do a lot of core work and injury prevention type of work as in strengthening the muscles surrounding the joints, and we make sure to maintain our range of motion in our leg strength.

Dawnielle, Corona Del Mar, CA: Hi Miss Val, Thank you again for the season tickets! I love cheering onthe Bruins!! But I have to ask - did I miss something at the last meet (vs Georgia)? I thought that the Bruins had hit routines with more difficulty and of course much better choreography, but scored lower than Georgia who had about the same amount of mistakes with much less difficulty and artistry??? I have been so lost with the scoring this season... What do you have to say about it?
Miss Val: First of all, we can't complain about losing a meet or the scoring when we don't hit our routines. I didn't watch the Georgia or Arizona teams compete, but I do know that we gave away a lot of deductions on landings alone this past weekend. As far as difficulty, you can only start from a 10.0, and I'm sure that almost every competitor from all three teams had 10.0 start values. And, as far as artistry goes ... I've spoken on this topic many times, and what it boils down to is ... "Good Art" is really all about personal preferrence. Thanks for attending our meets this season. See you Sunday at 2:00 for our last home meet.

Jeff (Inglewood): Welcome to the team, Lindsey! Now, we expect that you feel a fair amount of pressure when you perform routines in front of a large crowd, but how much pressure do you feel when you are asked by a football player for a date in front of a few hundred fans? ;-)
Lindsey: I didn't feel any pressure. Maurice Drew is one of my really good friends, and he's an awesome guy. Let's just say that it's a lot less pressure than trying to stay on a four-inch wide balance beam! haha

Dave (State College,PA): Val, as we get closer to Nationals- are you feeling confident that the team can win? Obviously the one value to having many lineup changes is that a lot of girls have gotten experience this year. Will Kate be back soon? We need her so badly, but I must say, I have never seen Kristen Maloney look better. It will be sad to see her leave gymnastics.
Miss Val: It will be VERY sad to see Maloney leave this sport... what a LEGEND! Is she the reason why you refer to us as "WE" even though you are from State College, PA? Please don't get me wrong... I like the "WE". Am I confident our team can win another title? Well, we are definitely talented enough to win. And we've shown we have the passion needed to do the necessary preparation to compete at our best. We need to start competing much more agressively. If we can compete agressively at the NCAA Championships, we could "Pick up Six".

Tony (Colorado): Marshall, what did you think of the whole Olympic scoring fiasco in the men's competition and what do you think can be done to fix the problems?
Marshall: Hi Tony! Well, that's a great question with not an easy answer! It has obviously been a huge priority in the international community to create a Code of Points (the rules that govern gymnastics) that would be fair, understandable, and as least subjective as possible. This is not an easy task, and hence there is much debate. Part of the problem, in my opinion, has been the absence of compulsories. This was a common denominator by which all gymnasts were held to the same standard, with a focus on technique and execution. Without this foundation, we have seen gymnastics become all about the big skill. The most unfortunate part of this plays out at the developmental level, where the primary goal is to do the hardest skill possible with little attention paid to detail. I'm not sure what the answer is in terms of the scoring situation. I do think that gymnastics should trend again towards its foundation in execution, strength, flexibility, and creativity -- which again, in my opinion, is the true essence of the sport -- art in motion.

Maddie (Glendale): Hi Lindsey! I think I read that you were born in CA, but after living in Texas for most of your life, how does it feel to be in California now? Much difference? And do you think you will be healthy enough to compete AA in the upcoming 3 years? Looking forward to seeing more of your greatness!! Good luck!
Lindsey: It feels great to live in California. It's a very exciting environment. I have to say there's never a dull moment, and I love it. I do think I will be healthy in the next three years to compete all-around, and I'm very excited.

Ryan (State College): Miss Val- I was wondering if you could choreograph a floor routine for any current elite gymnast- who would it be? Also- if you had to choose- Tatiana Gutsu or Shannon Miller?
Miss Val: Due to NCAA rules regarding recruiting, I don't feel comfortable answering this question regarding a current elite gymnast. I did always want to choreograph for Tasha - and am glad I get to give her 3 more floor routines. I would have loved to choreograph for Andrea Raducan.

Ross Zelen (Sherman Oaks): What are your goals for postseason play this year?
Peckett: We want to go out there and do what we do in practice every day. We want to be consistent, have fun as a team, and enjoy the last meets of the season. They're definitely exciting, and we want to get the most out of them. As long as we can compete to the best of our ability, our goal of winning national championships is within our grasp.
Miss Val: Stay healthy. Compete with aggressiveness, confidence, and enthusiasm. Win out.
Marshall: Hi Ross. The goal here at UCLA is to get a little bit better, every time out. What does that mean for this team? Of course we want to bring home another Championship. But more importantly, we want to fulfill our potential as a team. If we do that and compete with the consistency and confidence we see in the gym everyday, we should come out on top.

Erin Crumley (Tustin): Hey! We all miss you guys! By the way... is your hamstring totally better yet?
Lindsey: My hamstring is feeling great. It is so much better than it was even six months ago.

Jenn (NYC): Miss Val, can you give us an update on Lena Degteva, Heidi Moneymaker, the fab 5, and last year's seniors? Do you keep in close contact with your former gymnasts?
Miss Val: Lena is working her way up in the fashion industry, still living in L.A. Heidi is one of the film industry's top stunt performers. Onnie just got accepted into a graduate school scholarship program at NYU. Doni Thompson is engaged to J.D. Reive, coaching gymnastics, and I believe will be going to nursing school. Kristin Parker is coaching gymnastics in Sacramento. Malia Jones just finished school and is performing at SeaWorld again this summer. Carly Raab is in graduate school at North Texas, studying sports psychology. Last year's seniors are here at UCLA finishing up their schooling. And, yes ... I'm happy to say, I keep in contact with a lot of our alumnae. A lot of them will be in attendance at Sunday's meet.


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