Friday February 22, 2013Marissa King: Ready for her Florida chapter's grand finale
By Jimena Panduro, UF Communications
They say adaptation and change do not come about easily; and when the change involves leaving it all behind and moving to a new country, it can be even scarier and more challenging. On the other hand, it can also positively change your life forever and lead you to become the person you are today.
Four years ago, senior Marissa King took a leap of faith, left her native Great Britain, and made the decision to give collegiate gymnastics a shot here in the United States. Various factors contributed towards King’s decision to come across the pond. There was former gator and British gymnast Nicola Willis; there was the coaching staff; and of course, there was the campus.
“My biggest influence was Nicola Willis who was on the team in 2004,” King said. “She came to Nationals when I was in England and she was the one who first told me about her experience of going to America for collegiate gymnastics. Then, Coach Faehn came out and visited me and gave me more information and details. And finally, when I visited the campus, I knew that coming here was something that was going to happen. The program was great, the coaches were really positive and excited about coaching me, which was definitely a plus, and the school was phenomenal; the campus is beautiful and I had heard they were great for academics as well. And well, the sunshine compared to England was another reason.”
Once this decision was final, King arrived in Gainesville, Fla., in December of 2009 and a journey that would forever change her life began. She was an Olympian for Great Britain in 2008, and she had been performing elite gymnastics for several years, thus when she arrived, the first thing she had to learn was the new parameters that exist at the collegiate gymnastics level.
“It was really different because elite is kind of ‘do as many skills as you possibly can pack into one minute and 30 seconds’, while college requires less skills but is more about being cleaner, more precise and exact. So the transition between elite and college for me was quite difficult; but it was something I had to get used to, something I had never been introduced to before,” King said. “It was just all about gaining the experience, getting the knowledge and getting the practice.”
This transition in gymnastics style may have not been an easy task for her; however, as she said, it was just another thing to get used to; another thing to adapt to. In fact, King had quite a lot of adaptation to do when she arrived in the U.S. Everything for her was a new experience and a new challenge, albeit, it was one that she enjoyed.
“My freshman year was definitely a learning experience for me and it was a bit of a bumpy road and I don’t remember a bunch of it because it went by so fast; not only the transition from elite level to collegiate, but also coming to a whole different country and having to stabilize myself here and make a new living,” King said. “It was a good transition though, and it was something that I definitely needed at that point in my life.”
It was definitely a good transition for King, as evidenced in her many accomplishments as a Gator. She is a seven-time All-American, a three-time All-SEC second team, and the 2011 NCAA Vault Champion.
She has thoroughly enjoyed her time as a Gator gymnast. She knows that there are still two more regular-season home meets for her to compete in and enjoy. The regular season home finale will be a hard moment. Just how difficult? She admitted that during Senior Night a few tears might be shed.
“We have tremendous support here at UF; I did not realize the extent of the Gator Nation and the support they offer us. I love competing in the O’Connell Center; I love competing in front of the Gator Nation. I will never forget that I didn’t particularly enjoy doing my floor routine as much when I was in elite, but now I love performing floor. It’s a very special feeling to be able to do that in front of your home crowd. Just being able to represent the Gators and having that Gator head on your leotard; it’s really an honor and a privilege. Gator Nation has been everything.”
For King, Florida has been a phenomenal chapter in her life and one that above all, has left her with many memories to cherish, and has helped her grow into the woman she is today.
“I’ve grown a lot. My gosh!” she says with a broad smile on her face. “Being in school here and having to live in this country without the guidance of my family was a big challenge for me; I established new friendships, new routines. As a person I’ve grown a lot; my knowledge has expanded tremendously; I’ve met so many new and different people. I’m glad that I have had the chance not only to share my experiences, but learn about the experiences of other people as well.”
“I’m also excited to move on into a new chapter in my life, and hopefully, just like this one, it will also be filled with good things”, King says.
Although the next chapter in King’s life is still unwritten, if we have learned anything about the British import with the bubbly personality and the infectious smile, is that she is fearless and ready to tackle new endeavors and look to succeed in them all.
Four years ago, she came to Florida ready for the unknown. Now four years later, Marissa King is one of us; a part of the proud Gator Nation.