Leanne Wong | Bullet Proof – Nothing to Lose 

By Ashlee Buhler 

“You shoot me down, but I won’t fall. I am titanium.” 

There’s no song that captures the story of Leanne Wong’s 2021 season better than David Guetta and Sia’s “Titanium.” That’s exactly why she chose the song for her first collegiate floor routine, as she closes out one chapter of her career and starts the next. 

Wong’s 2021 season didn’t come without challenges. Her end goal was the Tokyo Olympics, but after finishing 8th in the All-Around at the Olympic Trials, she fell a little bit short, and was named one of four alternates. The opportunity to travel to Tokyo as part of team USA was still one she wanted to seize, but it was cut short after her roommate Kara Eaker tested positive for COVID-19 and she had to quarantine alone in her hotel room for ten days. 

It was a far cry from the moment she dreamed about and worked for her entire life, but Wong wasn’t willing to let anything shoot her down. Almost exactly three months after her heartbreak in Tokyo, Wong found herself back in Japan, this time in Kitakyushu for the 2021 World Championships. She was ready for redemption. She was ready to write a new storyline for herself. 

Wong competed with a level of poise and precision not expected of a gymnast competing in her first World Championships, but she delivered beautifully from start to finish, taking home a silver in the All-Around and bronze on floor. She returned to Japan on a mission and accomplished it with the utmost confidence and grace. You could say she was bullet proof, with nothing to lose—just as the song says. 

Inside Gymnastics chatted with Leanne Wong about the transition to college, the story behind her floor routine, and more!

2021 was a busy but successful year for you—you became an Olympic alternate, won two medals in your first World Championships, and now you are at the University of Florida beginning your college career! How was the transition for you?

Looking back on 2021, I never realized how much took place in that year. In 2020 during the COVID pandemic, we trained without a specific goal; without any competitions. But in 2021, everything was gearing up for the Olympic year. I competed at the American Classic, U.S. Classic, Championships and Olympic Trials. Unfortunately, I had an unsuccessful first day of Olympic Trials and was named an Olympic alternate. I was grateful to be an alternate and go to the Olympics, but I had an uneventful experience in Tokyo after being a close contact for COVID. On the bright side, I was never sick, but just unable to train.

Then I returned to Japan for the second time for the World Championships and won the All-Around silver medal and bronze floor medal! Less than a week after the Worlds Championships, I went to the University of Florida to start collegiate gymnastics after taking all my classes online while at Worlds. I feel like everything went so fast from returning from Worlds and transitioning into college. But it wasn’t too hard since I still have a set schedule for school and gymnastics which have been my two main focuses my entire life.

Florida is a program with a lot of former Elite gymnasts and World Team members—has anyone given you advice about the transition from Elite to college and how to deal with the expectations or pressure that might be placed on you?

Yes, Florida has many former Elite gymnasts and World Team members, which is nice to have since we have all gone through the same process. Transitioning from Elite to college is a different type of pressure. Every competition is a team competition and we must individually do our roles in order to help the team. I am so thankful for all of the girls on the team, they are so kind, caring, and incredibly supportive. I am looking forward to my next four years with them!  

You come to college with a big arsenal of skills that you could realistically put into your routine. How do you decide which skills you want to do?

The biggest difference from competing in college gymnastics and in Elite is the amount of skills you want in your routine. For college, the goal is to do the least amount of skills with perfect execution while in Elite gymnastics, the goal is to do the most difficult skills and put together a routine with the highest difficulty possible, while scoring a high execution.

For beam, I had created so many variations of routines that I was training because I didn’t know what skills and combinations I wanted to compete. On all the other events, I just chose the skills that I could perform consistently, help me achieve my goal of scoring a 10, and contribute a strong score to the team to ultimately win a national championship.

You’ve always been known for your beautiful floor routines—and your routine at Florida is no exception! Tell us about the choreographic process and theme of that routine! 

After only having two optional routines in my gymnastics career I was a little nervous at first to get a floor routine from Jeremy Miranda at UF. I have never had any experience with picking my own music and being so involved. The process was completely different, so I actually had a hard time finding music that I liked. I wanted it to match my type of dance style while entertaining the crowd at a college meet.

After choosing my floor music, “Titanium” I felt that there was a lot of significance to it. I felt like I was “shot down” after I didn’t make the Olympic Team, but I was “bulletproof (with) nothing to lose,” and I went to the 2021 World Championships and accomplished my goals. In addition, my All-Around medal was silver while titanium is a “lustrous transition metal with a silver color.”

Do you think you’ll try experimenting with other styles while at Florida or is the slow, more elegant style of routine what you are most comfortable with?

I don’t know if I will experiment with other styles of floor routines at Florida. Right now, I prefer more elegant and artistic floor routines.

What led you to pick the University of Florida? What made Gainesville feel like home for you?

 I definitely picked Florida for the warm weather and palm trees. In addition, I loved the campus, coaches, and knew Florida had one of the top gymnastics and academic programs in the country.

What goals has your team discussed for this season? And what are some of your personal goals in order to help the team reach its goal?

 The biggest goal we have is to win a national championship. It will take a lot of hard work and working as a team, but anything is possible! We are working on setting goals for each meet and taking it one step at a time. Some of my personal goals are to help contribute to my team as much as I can, enjoy every moment, score a perfect 10, and win a national championship.

When you look back on your Elite career and everything you accomplished, do you feel you achieved everything you set out to do? What are you most proud of?

Looking back on my Elite career, I definitely accomplished a lot! I was most proud of winning the American Cup in 2019 and winning All-Around and floor medals at the 2021 World Championships. I would’ve liked to compete in another World Cup Event, won a World Championship All-Around and team medal in the same competition, and compete at an Olympic Games.

Congratulations to Leanne, our 50 Most Artistic, Class of 2022 Cover Star!

In a stunning display of delicate grace and poise, our 50 Most Artistic Class of 2022 Cover Star Leanne Wong captured All-Around silver and balance beam bronze in her very first World Championships in Kitakyushu, Japan. Her beautiful floor routine was a crowd favorite throughout 2021, gaining some of the highest social media shares, loves and likes we’ve seen to date! Now, with her World medals secured, the 2020 Olympic alternate who trained at GAGE during her Elite career, is ready for her next chapter as a student athlete onstage at the University of Florida where her impeccable toe point, style and finesse should translate perfectly and make her an NCAA star!

Watch the cover presentation here!

Photos by  Lloyd Smith for Inside Gymnastics

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