We recently spoke with U.S. National Team member Rachel Gowey, a freshman at the University of Florida. In this Q&A, Rachel tells us about being a Gator, her experiences at the 2016 Olympic Trials, and training with legendary coach Liang Chow.

Inside Gymnastics: How is your training going in general? Are you training any new skills for the new season?
Rachel Gowey: Training is going very well. Here at Florida we’re starting to put our routines together; not so much learning new things but more making them very consistent and solid so that we’re able to hit them in any situation. But so far it’s going really well.

Inside: What made you choose to compete in NCAA at Florida? What were some of the reasons you chose Florida?
Rachel: When I was younger, I had a teammate who competed for a college, and she said that it was some of the best times of her life. I had never much looked into going professional, but I’d always heard good things about NCAA, so as a freshman I kind of just started to explore my options. And everywhere I went, all the girls said they love it, they have so much fun. It’s more of a team sport than individual. I also visited Florida in the middle of January, and the weather here definitely pulled me in [as opposed to Iowa]. But also, when I got to the campus, I fell in love with it and fell in love with the coaches and the team and it all felt like home.

Inside: What are you most looking forward to as a Florida student and as a collegiate gymnast?
Rachel: I’m definitely looking forward to competing as a team and having fun while competing, and being able to cheer and support each other. I’m just excited to be a part of this team and just have the support from everyone. And to be able to compete in the O’Dome.

Inside: What are your goals for the first season?
Rachel: My goals are probably to compete hopefully on bars and beam, but you know, I would love to compete all-around…I’m working all four events so hopefully I can compete all-around. But I’m looking forward to just competing and hopefully getting scores that will help bring my team up.

Inside: Could you talk about the Olympic Trials and that experience?
Rachel: After [P&G] Championships, we had a few weeks before Trials and those weeks in the gym were definitely the hardest. I was doing routines every day and had to be very, very consistent, and focus on my training, and wasn’t allowed to do much else outside of the gym. It was summertime, so it was easier for me to stay focused in the gym and do what I needed to do. But then we left for Trials, and we had the whole week to train, and we had double training most days. By this time, I was feeling pretty confident because I had been competing for the [entire] year and my skills were very consistent so I felt very good about myself. Going there, it wasn’t as much pressure as I thought it was going to be, because I just kind of had this idea that, you know, with my past meets, I’ve been injured or I hadn’t been able to compete all four. I kind of knew in the back of my head I didn’t have that top guaranteed spot, so I kind of went in to just have fun without any pressure. It was definitely one of the most fun [times] I’ve ever had at a meet, being able to compete with the top 14 girls. It was so fun because we were all so happy for each other and cheering for each other. It was honestly the best time I’ve ever had competing.

Inside: What was it like to train at Chow’s? Can you tell us about what it was like at that gym?
Rachel: I grew up in Des Moines and I grew up around Chow’s, so I’ve been going there since I was five. It’s really been my home, and I’ve known Chow for a very long time. I’m just so glad I got to work with him and glad we got to know each other so well, because we definitely shared this chemistry so I could understand him and I could do what he wanted me to do. We definitely had a very strong coach and athlete bond that helped me get to where I’m at right now. I could not have gotten to where I was without him.

Inside: Do you think you’ll ever return to elite?
Rachel: No, I think I will be finished once I finish college.

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Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com