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Right Where She Left Off: Vanessa Zamarripa

February 14, 2012
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The final pose of Vanessa Zamarripa's floor routine holds a special spot in the minds of many who were at the 2010 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships. Two index fingers pointing skyward, a stark foreshadowing of how many National Titles Zamarripa would win at those Championships.

Her UCLA team dethroned the dynasty that the Georgia GymDawgs had created, taking five titles in five years prior to 2010. Zamarripa, then the super sophomore, added the Vault crown to her haul in 2010. Following the NCAA season, Zamarripa took a path not many collegians dare to take: Elite season. Venturing from the Level 10 rules of NCAA to the demanding FIG set seemed all too easy for the Illinois native. Zamarripa placed 7th All Around in her first Elite meet, the CoverGirl Classic.

This showing qualified her on to the Visa Championships. Zamarripa's vaulting instantaneously threw her name into the mix for World Championships candidacy. Her Yurchenko half-on, Rudi-off displayed the type of technique that makes a YouTube watcher hit the replay button…twice. Elsewhere, Zamarripa was clean. Her “cool customer” persona resonates through her gymnastics.

Many gymnasts appear frantic on the apparatus; trying to hastily move from one skill to the next. Zamarripa, conversely, seemed to just know that she would achieve everything she needed to with ease. Though a few hiccups caught the first-time Visa competitor off-guard, she had something not a lot of girls from the U.S. could boast: a 6.5 D-value vault.

Mistakes aside, Zamarripa found herself on the U.S. National Team, in her first attempt. Left off the squad for the World Championships, Zamarripa resumed traditional training at UCLA. All too familiar gymnastics hardship struck in December of 2010 for Vanessa, though. A ruptured Achilles' tendon ended her 2011 NCAA bid. Just as so many gymnasts before her, Zamarripa took to the training room while her Bruin squad honed their skills. She watched as her team took a surprise 2nd place finish at the 2011 NCAA Championships after a lackluster regular season.

The momentum for the Bruins was once again rising, and Zamarripa knew that's right where she had left off. As Vanessa traveled to Illinois to compete the second weekend of February, one might wonder what it meant to her to compete there.

“It's definitely an exciting feeling. I used to compete at the IGI Chicago-Style Meet all the time in club, so it almost feels like another home meet for me,” Vanessa said. The comforts of home should only strengthen Zamarripa's 2012 resolve: “I don't feel like [my role] has changed very much. I'm more of a leader on the team, now. I feel like I am picking up where I left off in 2010.” NCAA season is the first competitive stage Zamarripa will step onto in 2012, but is there room for a return to Elite, as well?

“I still do think about it. When I have time, I'll discuss it with my coaches and we'll decide what's best. If not this year, then maybe try for Worlds next year. I've learned some new skills that would help me in Elite.” Indeed, at their annual Meet the Bruins event held in December, Zamarripa debuted one big addition for this season, “It's in my bar routine right now, the Shaposh[nikova], that I'd never done before. It's actually a really fun skill. I've worked on some Weilers, too.”

These skills would boost her start value on the key event for Team USA as of late. 2012 sees a more mature Zamarripa on the scene. Her signature cool, calm, collected attitude appears during her routines and after. She is embracing the journey that gymnastics is taking her on: the bitter and the sweet. Post-season gymnastics can be the great equalizer for many teams in the NCAA, but with Zamarripa leading the Bruin charge yet again, greatness seems to be inevitably on the horizon. It also seems to be just a matter of time before Vanessa picks up where she left off in the Elite scene, primed to take on the world.

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