by Anna Rose Johnson

British gymnast Ruby Harrold has done it all, from competing at the Commonwealth Games to the World Championships to the Olympics—and now she’s fully immersed in the world of NCAA gymnastics. Harrold, a 21-year-old hailing from Bristol, England, is preparing for her sophomore season at LSU. In this interview, she reflects on her elite career and her first year of NCAA.

Inside Gymnastics: How is your training going in general? Are you training any new skills for the new season?
Ruby Harrold: Training is going very well. We started preseason almost two weeks ago (Sept 14th). It’s been good to get some structure back in my life (I’m definitely someone who likes structure), and introduce our freshmen to how we work in the gym and get to know them as well. I am working on a new connection on bars. Just cleaning things up a little by doing skills a little easier on my body. The schleudern is still there though!!

Inside: What were some of your highlights of your first season at LSU?
Ruby: One of my highlights from last season was winning SECs in Jacksonville, Florida. It was such an honor to be a part of such a huge accomplishment for both LSU Gymnastics as a program and our coaches. To see how much it meant to our coaches DD, Bob, and Jay was so special. Another highlight for me was simply being on the competition floor in the PMAC. Coming from a completely different culture, it is so wonderful to witness how crazy supportive the LSU fans are and how much we as athletes engage with the audience to add to such a fun atmosphere. One of my favorite moments is when Callin’ Baton Rouge is played in the PMAC. I could barely even hear myself think!

Inside: What are you most looking forward to this season? What are some of your goals for 2018?
Ruby: I am most looking forward to just getting going with season! Although we’ve just started preseason, we are all so excited to be back traveling and competing in the PMAC. Although we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves, it is something we are all looking forward to already.

Inside: What do you think was the highlight of your elite career? Could you reflect back on 2015 worlds and winning a team bronze medal?
Ruby: There have been a few. The first one that springs to mind was the European team silver medal we won in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2014. After an Olympic cycle, it can take time for the new team to gel and mix well with each other. This group of girls were so much fun to be around and the trip as a whole was one of my favorites. When Becky’s bar score came up in the scoreboard to confirm we had won the silver medal, I remember screaming so loud with excitement. I also remember not being able to stop crying for the next four hours!

Of course, the Olympics were a huge highpoint of my elite career. Getting the opportunity to compete in Rio at the pinnacle event of any athlete’s career was a great way to round out my elite days. Thinking back, it all went by very fast and almost feels surreal that it even happened.

However, the medal we won at Worlds in 2015 in Glasgow will always be a special moment. Being back in the same arena we competed in a year prior for the Commonwealth Games felt very reminiscent. Team England had achieved a lot under that roof and it would have been a great event if we could replicate the same type of success. Gymnastics was continuing to become a highly attended event, with the SECC Hydro selling out (I think) so the crowd was packed. My family was also able to make a last-minute trip to watch the team final which was a treat in itself. To be able to share that bronze medal with everyone in the audience, producing GB’s first team medal in a number of years was unforgettable and a true honor.

Inside: Which do you prefer—competing elite or NCAA?
Ruby: They are just so different I can’t [compare] them against each other. Elite gymnastics gave me so many opportunities to compete for my country and gain so much valuable experience both in life and in the athletic world.

NCAA gymnastics is such a different but thrilling environment to be in. For the first time, gymnastics is a team sport and your individual achievements stand second against the team’s. I think competing as part of a bigger team and for the university is far more rewarding because our achievements are shared with everyone’s love for sport and LSU. It has been a remarkably rewarding experience to compete for LSU and in front of the best fans in the college.

Ruby’s Favorites

Favorite apparatus: 

My favorite apparatus is bars because I get to compete a skill that not many people in the gymnastics world can do.

Favorite social media site:

I like using Twitter and Instagram. Twitter is fun because I can connect with fans on a personal level by simply being myself. I love Instagram because you create a timeline of your favorite memories all in one place. Follow me @rubyharrold 🙂

Favorites outside of gym:

I would say I enjoy shopping but I don’t like spending money, so I’m more of a window shopper! Netflix is also my best friend on a night where I’ve finished any schoolwork and I’m just passing the time away.

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