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Candid Chat with Courtney Kupets

December 05, 2007
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2004 U.S. National Co-Champion Courtney Kupets has one remarkable comeback to her name. Is another of a different type in the stars?


In 2004, Kupets came back from a torn left Achilles tendon (suffered in August of 2003) to capture a share of the U.S. all-around title alongside Carly Patterson. She went on to a first place finish at the Olympic Trials, and helped lead Team USA to silver in Athens.


The 2002 World Champion and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist on uneven bars, Kupets' career is marked by accolades at all levels. Following the 2004 Olympics, Kupets enrolled at the University of Georgia, and after only her first two years is one of the most decorated athletes in NCAA history. She holds not only back-to-back team championship titles, but also is the two-time defending NCAA all-around champion.


Charismatic both on and off the competition floor, Kupets has built a huge fan following. And now, fans are wondering whether the talented collegiate junior may take a shot at a run for a spot on the 2008 Olympic team. Inside Gymnastics recently caught up with Kupets following a UGA training session. Outgoing, funny, and laughing throughout the chat, it was clear that college life suits Kupets to a tee. Open and candid, Kupets gave us the inside scoop on her time at Georgia so far and a possible comeback…


Inside: You’ve had a remarkable career already at the University of Georgia. Talk about the experience there and the feeling of earning National Championship titles with your college teammates…


It’s been incredible! You always hear about how great [collegiate gymnastics] is, but I never knew it would be so much fun. I remember watching back in 2005 and that was even so much fun, and I don’t like to sit and watch gymnastics - I just like to do it! The team title is special. I mean, you work with these girls in and out of gym every day, get to know them so well…And there are ups and downs in the meets, the trips, so you know, to win a championshp with that team after so much work and so many trials, it’s one of the best feelings! We’ve been so blessed. We’ll always have those rings. “Bling it home” was our theme, but it’s really that symbol of what you did that year. And it’s nothing I ever would have imagined!


Inside: Your sister was a member of the University of Georgia team…how much of an influence did that have on your decision.


Well, Georgia is a great university where you can get a great college education. To do that was important to me. The weather is great here, I knew a lot of the girls on the team - it just fit. The team was so together, so much fun. And my sister being on the team of course, was definitely the final decision.


Inside: Your coach, Suzanne Yoculan, is one of the most dominant figures in NCAA gymnastics. What’s she like to work with?


Before I knew her, some people that don’t really know her were like ‘she’s mean!’ But she’s been great! She works with you very well. I mean she’s done this for over 20 years and she knows college gymnastics so well. I think at first I was standoffish. I just listened. When you’re an elite gymnast, you work through every ache and pain, doing your assignment every day. In college, you compete a lot more and you have to understand, if you’re hurt, don’t push it. She works with you very well on that. She’ll switch assignments around and stuff. For me, it’s been a great experience.


[Suzanne Yoculan says of Kupets: “She’s probably the best gymnast I’ve every coached both mentally and physically.”]


Inside: You trained in Maryland previously and now you’re in the heart of the south…how do you like it in Georgia?


I like it a lot! It’s a little different, a little slower paced. I mean, you drive 10 minutes and you’re at a farm! The weather is great. Well, summer humidity is not good for my hair! (laughs). We’re close to beaches. I think I kind of like fast pace the best, but school keeps me plenty busy!


Inside: When you do have some time away from the gym and school, what are some of your favorite things to do?


Athens has a great downtown area with a bunch of little shops to walk around. I’m a shopper! (laughs a lot) With Christmas coming up, there’s a huge mall 45 minutes away and I’ll be there! I really like going to movies. A lot of my friends are girls from the team, but I was in a sorority and I have a bunch of great friends from the sorority too. We go to football games and stuff. And I also have a lot of  friends from my major.


Inside: You have two years of college under your belt now…How do you think you’ve changed in the last two years?


Well, I’m still very goofy! (laughs) I still like to just mess around in the gym, have fun. I’m growing up and understanding life. I understand now that life is more than school, sleeping, doing gymnastics. It sounds funny, but just doing laundry and trying to keep my room clean and being responsible is all part of it!


Inside: And I’m sure you’re a responsible student as well! What are you studying at UGA and what do your classes look like this semester?


I’m studying interior design. This semester I have Drafting, Rendering, Research Sociology and Building and Materials!


Inside: What led you to interior design?


I like that interior designers team up with an architect to design a great space. I like designing a floor plan, like taking a space and creating something great that fulfill the needs. It’s so much fun to create the different rooms.


Inside: OK, let’s talk about a possible comeback run for the 2008 Olympics. You’ve had tremendous success at the college level and everyone wants to know if you’ll make a run for ’08.


I did have some thoughts about it. I didn’t know much about the Code or anything so I researched some information and looked into it. Righ now, I want to give my best for the team, so I think I have to not go that route. I want to give the girls on my team my full effort. That’s my first and foremost priority. And I want to win another National Championship! So I don’t think you can do two different types of gymnastics at the same time. Suzanne and I chatted about it. As of now, I have no thoughts for it, but I guess you can say you never know what the future would bring. I’m trying to live in the now because so much is going on.


Click here to check out Part two of our chat with Courtney Kupets.


Subscribe today to Inside Gymnastics magazine to follow all of the action on the road to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics!


Photos by Grace Chiu

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