Rhonda Faehn's Take on Bridget Sloan
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IG’s Gina Pongetti sat down with Rhonda Faehn, Head Coach at the University of Florida, to get her reaction and thoughts to yesterday’s news from Bridget Sloan. Sitting here, watching the meet, excited to see some of her incoming freshman team competing here at Trials, she gets the news that Bridget Sloan is out due to her elbow injury. As the arena was wondering “where was Bridget,” Rhonda was planning her path for support of her return, and looking forward to the fall when Bridget will become a Gator.
IG: Sorry to hear about the injury to Bridget. Can you give us your thoughts?
RF: This is such sad news for Bridget. I know she has worked very hard to prepare for her chance to make another Olympic Team. We look forward to her joining the Gators this season!
IG: What is your best memory of her Elite career?
RF: Of course, her winning All-Around at Worlds [in 2009] was amazing. But my favorite memory of her career is not one memory of her competing, but really of her career and how she is such a relentless fighter. Before the 2008 Games, when she was coming back from her knee surgery, she competed at Trials in Philadelphia. Watching her overall mental attack was amazing. Knowing that she was coming back from her injury and trusting in Marvin and her training, as well as her experience, showed me her trust in her sport. She knew she had to be ready for selection camp, and she let her training lead the way.
IG: What attributes of her competitive style are your excited about her bringing to Florida?
RF: She is extremely positive as an athlete. She is my definition of a true fighter. Although this injury was unfortunate, her reaction was all about the future. Of course she is sad that she is not in the mix, but I love that her response was that she is going to heal up, be ready to go and win a National Championship for her team at Florida. That is an attribute of competitive maturity and life that you cannot teach someone. She will bring this maturity, level of experience, and that attitude to our program and that, to me, will be amazing.
IG: Can you tell us a little about your incoming freshman team?
RF: We have Bridget (Sloan), Bridgette Caquatto and Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto from Canada (2010 World Team). This group is such a wonderful balance of one another. They are seasoned competitors at a very high level, but also 100 percent full of work ethic and team-oriented individuals. This complements what we have already on our team. Having Bridgey [Caquatto] as a 2011 Pan American Games All-Around Champion is so exciting. She joins her older sister, Mackenzie Caquatto (a junior), on the team. Bianca is more of a beam and bars stand-out, and has a wide variety of unique skills (double turn on beam and more). She has great stalder work on bars and is so clean. Bianca is all about doing whatever is needed for the program, a coach’s dream!
IG: It seems as if many athletes that you have on your team have been through injury and come back stronger. What are your thoughts?
RF: I feel that when so many of our athletes have competed at such a high JO and Elite level, their bodies have been put through the ringer. These injuries have been challenging. We have an incredible staff that we work with, at home for some athletes, within USA Gymnastics, and at UF to get them better. No one understands the process and dedication it takes form the athletes themselves, day after day, to progress, rehab, strengthen, mentally regain confidence and be patient. Luckily, they know that we are behind them and coming back to the most supported atmosphere. They get them back on their feet quickly, but better than they were before. It all starts in the mind, and they are confident in the people that they work with.
IG: Thanks for your time, have fun this week, and good luck next year.
RF: Thanks for your support!
Rhonda’s mark on the NCAA world, as well as gymnastics as a whole, goes far beyond her time as an Elite gymnast. As an Elite, she was an alternate to the 1988 U.S. Olympic team, as well as competing at the 1987 World Championships. Her reign at UF began in 2003, and since then, they have never finished below the top 10 as a team in NCAA. We know one thing for certain, Bridget’s impact on this sport is far from over. Florida is getting a gem of an athlete, a wonderful person and a great competitor. We are excited to see some rings on her finger and medals around her neck. Good luck Rhonda and congratulations, Bridget, on a fantastic Elite career. Thanks for allowing us to go along for the ride!