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Gymnastics alums look back on Olympics

Kristina Vaculik '15 performs on the balance beam during the team final in the London 2012 Olympic Games, helping Team Canada to a best-ever fifth place finish.

REBECCA WING ’15 HELPS BRITAIN TO 9th PLACE FINISH

As the starter on beam and bars for Great Britain’s women’s gymnastics team at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Rebecca Wing ’15 knew her job was to set the tone for the rest of the team.

“You just couldn’t even hear anything because it was just so loud,” Wing said describing the atmosphere in the stadium. “It was actually amazing because when I competed our team was in the same rotation as China so it was packed.”

Rebecca Wing '15 competes on the bars for the GBR at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Rebecca Wing ’15 competes on the bars for the GBR at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, helping lead her country to ninth place.

Despite what would have been for most a pressure-packed competition, Wing was able to stay calm and consistent.

“Walking out into the arena, I was super nervous…this is what you’ve trained for your whole life,” Wing explained. “And then it hit me – this is it, I have nothing to lose anymore, I can’t get any higher than this so I’m just going to enjoy it. It was a really cool feeling.”

Drowning out the noise and maintaining her newly found composure, Wing did her job, posting a 14.1 on bars and a 14.575 on beam helping lead Great Britain to ninth place, the country’s highest ever finish in the event up to that point.

“I just had to hit my routine and I did it,” Wing said. “I was just really proud with how I did.”

Immediately following the Olympics, Wing thought that she wanted to make a run for London in 2012, but it wasn’t long before she realized she had new goals. Wing left any shot at a second Olympics behind when she accepted an athletic scholarship to Stanford and instead focused on helping the team to the National Championships in 2014 and 2015.

KRISTINA VACULIK ’15 MAKES HISTORY WITH CANADIAN WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS TEAM

In 2012, four years after Wing made history in Beijing, Stanford teammate Kristina Vaculik ’15 took the floor in London as a member of the Canadian Team.

After having not even qualified a team for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Canada was ecstatic when it secured a seventh-place finish in the qualifying round, good enough to take one of the eight spots in the team final competition.

When the last scores trickled in to cement the final results, Vaculik and her teammates were in shock. When the scoreboard displayed Canada in fifth place, the country’s highest-ever team-finish, the five members all embraced each other and began crying.

“It was unbelievable,” Vaculik said, remembering the event nearly four years later. “I just kept being like, ‘No, that can’t be. No, there’s a mistake.’”

The United States, Russia, Romania and China – all historic gymnastics powerhouses – were the only teams to place ahead of Canada.

“A lot of times people are like, ‘Oh you went to the Olympics, did you medal?’ But it’s so much more than just medaling. It’s a lifetime worth of work and the whole team of people that you have behind you and the team of people that you have with you there.”

Vaculik’s road to London was anything but ordinary for an Olympic gymnast.

After just missing the cut to be named one of the two Canadian gymnasts headed to Beijing in 2008 (Canada only sent two gymnasts in 2008 because they didn’t qualify as a team), Vaculik originally wasn’t sure if she wanted to try again for the 2012 Games.

After accepting an athletic scholarship to Stanford, Vaculik decided to compete in college for a year on The Farm before taking a year off of school to prepare for London.

“I decided to continue the sport out of just pure enjoyment…because I did actually enjoy gymnastics just for the fun of it and I did just enjoy competing.”

On top of perfecting her college routines and taking on an intense collegiate competition schedule, Vaculik had to put in additional training to keep up her elite-level skills. At times, it was difficult to meet the demands and expectations of her teammates and coaches while still reaching for her own personal goal to compete on the biggest international stage.

“But in the end I’m really happy I stuck it out with Stanford because the experience there was invaluable and working through the struggles and learning how to work with people and how to trust in one and other and gain other people’s trust. I grew so much as a person.”

 

Contact Laura Stickells at lauraczs ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Click here for more stories from our Road to Rio Olympic coverage.

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Laura Stickells

Laura Stickells

Laura Stickells is one of the Managing Editors of Sports at The Stanford Daily. Growing up in the small, rural town of Bishop, California, Laura captained the powderpuff football team and became particularly adept at driving heavy equipment in her later years, a skill that helped her find a position as an intern at NBC Sports this summer working on Olympic coverage. In her spare time, Laura competes on the Stanford Equestrian Team. She also writes football better than the boys. Laura is a sophomore majoring in communications and can be reached at lauraczs 'at' stanford.edu.