Friday January 4, 2013Bridget Sloan: Ready to Experience Collegiate Gymnastics
by Eden Otero, UF Communications
A gymnast with experience competing on the sports highest levels, Bridget Sloan looks forward to performing on a new stage – this time as a collegiate for the Florida Gators.
The six-time (and current) member of the U.S. Senior National Team, Sloan was the youngest member of the U.S.’s silver medal team at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. The next year, Sloan stepped to the top of the podium to take the World Championships’ all-around gold in London. She also was part of U.S. teams at the 2010 World Championships (silver) and 2011 Pan American Games (gold).
Once she performs her first routine as a Gator, Sloan also will be completing another first. Thirty all-around World Championship titles have been awarded since 1938. Sloan will be the first World all-around champion to compete as a collegiate.
Sloan contributes her decision to extend her career to her love for the sport. After signing with Florida in the spring of 2011, Sloan deferred enrollment to train for the 2012 Olympic Trials and hopefully another spot on the U.S. roster. But an injury during warm-up at the first day of Trials ended her 2012 Olympic quest.
Unquestionably it was a disappointment, but she remembered a question from a friend in 2011 that again brought some self awareness to Sloan. Would she rather call it quits after 2012 or be doing what she loves for the next four years? She felt reinforced in her decision to join the Gator program.
“In my mind, I was like, my career is not going to end,” said Sloan. “Then slowly I started realizing that gymnastics is a sport where you kind of have to quit at an early age. We can’t really participate in the sport until we are 30 or 40.”
Sloan knows it’s unlikely she’ll be performing a double pike 20 years from now, but the collegiate experience offers her an opportunity to extend her career in the sport that has played such a large part in her life.
So far, her collegiate life has been one full of new and exciting experiences. Having trained alone or with one or two people throughout the majority of her career, Sloan says training and competing with people who have become like family was something she accepted with open arms.
“It’s been a lot of fun because I had no idea what to expect. I had no expectations, high or low, and as soon as we got here, within a week we had our place,” said Sloan. “We just molded into the team. Nobody had to ask ‘Hey, can we just fit in right here?’”
However, Sloan’s decision to come to UF wasn’t based solely on gymnastics alone.
“I wanted a good education,” said Sloan. “I knew Indiana had some good schools, like Purdue, Indiana University and Notre Dame, but the schools like UF, Georgia, Utah, UCLA, Alabama; all these big schools have great gymnastics programs and also offer a great education.”
Upon coming to UF, Sloan, who has been all over the world and won multiple titles on stages in front of thousands of people, was nervous to move and begin her college career.
“When I first got here, I was definitely a little nervous,” said Sloan. “I had those freshman nerves of moving away from home and coming to a big place like UF.”
She says that her adjustment to UF has been very smooth, though now she’s anxiously waiting for the season to begin and preseason to end.
“I didn’t think preseason was so long,” she said. “I thought it would fly by, but it lingered on. I was like, ‘man we are only one month into this. I’m ready for season.’ We just got ready so fast, a lot faster than I was expecting.”
Sloan has been a part of many U.S. teams, but competing with the teammates she’s been training side-by-side with since August will be yet another team experience she looks forward to sharing. She says that supporting her team and showing them that she is behind all of them is the most important thing that she has learned this preseason.
And she anticipates experiencing for herself that moment her older teammates speak of – running through the Gator head and having the support of the O’Connell Center crowd surround her as she competes for the Florida faithful.