Q & A with UCLA Gymnast Olivia Courtney

April 18, 2013

NCAA Gymnastics Championship Central

Q: We're just one day away from the start of the NCAA Championships. Is there any preparation left to be totally ready for team prelims on Friday?

A: I think, especially for our team, we just have to get our mental game fully on. We're prepared with our skills, our endurance, and our team is ready. We just need to bring our mental game to the competition and I think we'll be fine:

Q: This will be the first NCAA Championship in Pauley Pavilion since it re-opened in November. Will that bring anything special to this meet?

A: We love competing in Pauley, especially the New Pauley. It's amazing and such a nice arena. For it to be the National Championship, we already have adrenaline and excitement for it to be nationals but to have it held in Pauley in front of our home crowd and a lot of our friends and fans it makes it that much more exciting. Everybody is really, really excited for that part.

Q: This is a very young Bruins team, and it is light on big-meet experience. You are one of the few with big-meet experience. What can you do to help your younger teammates excel this weekend?

A: I can just help them if they have any questions. I'll just keep building their confidence and make sure they are ready to compete and they look good. I can help them if they get nervous and make sure they have fun. I know they're ready in all the other aspects, so if they get nervous I hope they come to me and I can help calm them down.

Q: Do you feel like you are ready to compete this weekend?

A: Oh yeah, I'm definitely ready. We always kid around that this (the next meet) is the meet we've been training for our whole lives, but this whole season, this is the meet that we've been training for. I am 100% ready and I promise to bring my mental game and physical game to this competition with no regrets. I don't want to hold anything back.

Q: UCLA finished second at the Pac-12 Championship and again at NCAA Regionals. Do those runner-up finishes provide any extra motivation for this week's Championship?

A: It actually did motivate a lot of us. We had a meeting after Regionals and we were saying that we are sick and tired of coming in second. We came in second at Pac-12's, we came in second at Regionals. It's time for us to get the No. 1 spot. We don't just want to go into this meet hoping that we're going to make top-3 (and advance to Super Six). We want to go in knowing that we're going to be top-3 so we're aiming for the No. 1 spot.

Q: What's your favorite event. Not necessarily your best event, but your favorite?

A: When I'm competing, it's floor. I love the choreography that we get, and I love to be able to dance and perform. I feel like one of my strengths is tumbling and being able to combine all of those elements, it's really awesome. The team really gets into everyone's floor routine so it's a lot of fun

Q: So if floor is your favorite to compete, is there a different favorite in the practice gym?

A: I do like to practice floor, especially learning new things because I think it's really fun, but I love to practice vault. There are so many different parts that I can focus on and try to improve. It's not just going for a big vault. You have to think of your run-up, your approach onto the table and all those different aspects. I really like practicing vault because it really stimulates my mental game.

Q: College is the one segment of gymnastics that has a strong team element. Was that a big transition for you?

A: Since coming to UCLA it's really been instilled that it is all about the team. Coming in as a freshman you're like `yeah, it's a team sport' but you still have the mentality of being an individual. You think `oh, if I do my job we'll be fine.' But now, as a junior, I feel it's not just about you. You have to help your team because you want them to get better too. In the end, you want to win a national championship with them. Individual awards are nice, but it doesn't mean anything if you don't have the team title as a whole.

Q: What motivated you to go 3,000 miles away from home (Fairfax, Va.) for college?

A: When I was younger, I always said I wanted to go to UCLA. When I was probably 10 I'd say that. I never knew why, but I always had something inside of me that said I wanted to go to UCLA. When I started doing research about UCLA, I just loved the school itself. I love how diverse it is. I don't see how it gets better than being in California and Los Angeles. I've traveled a lot and I just really love it. Then meeting the coaching staff and the team and seeing how much fun they have in practice, it just felt genuine and natural to me. Nothing felt fake or forced. I really fell in love with it and decided that I really did have the right mindset when I was 10. And this is the school where I need to be.

Q: Was it hard on your family that you went so far away for college?

A: It was tough, especially my freshman year, because it was so far. I'm used to traveling a lot. I came from National Team and we would leave the country for a week or a month at a time, so I wasn't worried about me getting homesick but my mom struggled because she's not able to see me a lot. Freshman year, she actually came out to a lot of meets. She came to all of our home meets and almost all of our away meets, but I think it's getting easier for her, and she hasn't come to as many meets.

Q: Do you have family coming this weekend?

A: My mom and grandmother and a few family friends.

Q: You have been described as the "rock" of the UCLA team, and you have hit all 40 of your routines this season. What does it mean to you to have earned that reliable reputation?

A: I love knowing that people rely on me like that. I'm not the person that loves the attention and wants to be on spotlight. I'm totally OK with being in the background but knowing that people respect me and they know they can count on me. That's motivating and rewarding in itself. I know that my teammates appreciate me and they know they can count on me. That makes it worth it.

Q: Has your UCLA experience been everything you hoped it would be?

A: Oh yeah. I love it here, and I couldn't imagine myself anywhere else. We travel a lot to other schools, and they are nice and we have fun, but I couldn't see myself anywhere else. I just adore UCLA

Q: Is there anything specific that you are looking forward to this weekend?

A: I'm looking forward to enjoying each day and the experiences that are going to happen. I think the moment that we walk into Pauley and see how it's set up and seeing the gym on podium and seeing the crowd is going to be such a good feeling. I'm really excited to get that moment when we walk in. I think it's going to be great!

UCLA Health Sponsor - Event Information
Saturday, Apr 02
vs. NCAA Regionals
Salt Lake City, UT
2nd, 196,375
Friday, Apr 15
vs. NCAA Team Semifinals
Fort Worth, TX
3rd, 196.700
Saturday, Apr 16
vs. NCAA Super Six
Fort Worth, TX
5th, 196.825