USA Gymnastics Championship 2018: My Experience


Photo taken by John Vitti

Since I can remember, I’ve been watching Olympic Gymnasts Competitions. I used to sit and watch for hours, just watching the elegant movement of the floor routines and the girls as the would fly high on the bars. Little did I know that I would have the opportunity to watch and report about the event, which took place at the TD Garden in Boston.

The USA Gymnastics Championship brings the best of the best from all around the country to compete for a spot on the national gymnastics team, who then go on to compete at the world competition every year.

Upon arrival, I walked in to the Garden with my friend, and fellow journalist, Abby, to get my media credential badge, as they called it. and was then ushered to a room full of fancy food and extremely expensive photography equipment. We arrived a few minutes after the tour began for the high school journalists, so we were then escorted through a single curtain and were taken to the floor. This whole experience was a bit surreal as I recognized as I looked down at the mat, that Simone Biles, a returning gold medal Olympian, would be competing soon in the very spot where I was standing.  After the tour, we were escorted back to the media room and I got to know some of the other student journalists and individuals associated with the event.

So here’s how the woman’s competition works…

There are two competitions; one for the juniors (ages 10-15) and one for seniors (ages 16-22). Each gymnast completes four events, vault, floor exercise, balance beam, and uneven bars. The scores of all events are added up and the winner is the athlete with the most points. First and second place are usually between a few tenths of a point. There are two days of competition. The first day and the second day are identical, except for the awards ceremony at the end of the second day. We were not present when the awards were given out.

We left the room early to walk around and watch the junior girls warm up. Some were as young as ten years old and could move their bodies in ways I never thought possible. This was the new generation of gymnastics right before my eyes.

The opportunity to interview the junior gymnasts was an exciting one. I was getting the chance to talk to future Olympians. After the competition, we were escorted to the interview section of the fishbowl. A few gymnasts were sitting on the mats waiting to talk to reporters. At first I was taken back. There were reporters from the Boston Globe and even the New York Times. The other girls were in shock too, as they stood next to me silently. I was the first one to go up to Kayla DiCello, the third place winner of the day. I asked her how she gets back up after falling or making a mistake during a routine. She happily replied, “I tell myself that I can do it and just to go back to a clean line . [I also tell myself] to not think about what I just fell on and to just keep moving forward”.

I asked the same question to Skye Blakely (fourth place of the day), and she gave me a similar answer… “I tell myself that sometimes making mistakes is normal, so I just have to know that everyone has mistakes. I just pick myself back up and do it how I do in practice”. I find it interesting that these girls are so positive and even kind to each other in this competition that could make or break their careers.

Between the junior and the senior competitions, the other student journalists and I started writing and editing pictures. During this time, I met and talked to John Powers, who has covered 15 Olympic games throughout his career. He was such a kind, genuine person and gave us some great advice about reporting on gymnastics. Shortly after, it was time for the seniors to begin.

For the senior competition, we had great seats. We were so close to the floor that we could see the faces of the gymnasts clearly after they nailed their routines. The event progressed and  former Olympic champions, Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson walked in, among others. I had watched these girls win it big  during the last  Summer Olympic games and was in shock that they were less than ten feet away from me. Since we were wearing credentials, behaving in a professional manner was essential, which was exciting for me. We were told we couldn’t talk to anyone unless they spoke to us first. Standing so close to these legends was difficult, but it was amazing to see them in person rather than on my TV at home.

The competition was so close, as Olympic champ Simone Biles competed with current world champion Morgan Hurd. Simone came in first all around with Megan Hurd coming in a close second. Covering an event like this, as a student is one of the best learning opportunities an aspiring journalist could ask for.  Huge thank yous are  sent out to John Vitti and the Boston Globe; Leslie King, and USA Gymnastics for the experience of a lifetime. A dream of mine has truly come true.