By Anna Rose Johnson
In this new series, we’re highlighting up-and-coming U.S. gymnastics stars that are looking ahead to international assignments, collegiate success, and Olympic glory. Let’s take a look at three highly artistic juniors who are catching our attention!
For 13-year-old Rose Casali, competing at the 2017 Nastia Liukin Cup has been one of the most amazing experiences of her life. “It was my first time competing on podium and I absolutely loved it!” she enthuses. “One of the most memorable moments was meeting Nastia Liukin, who has been one of my inspirations since I was little! Nastia and her speech to us was great motivation to go out there and have fun competing [in] the sport that I love.” Rose ended up winning the junior all-around silver at the Nastia Cup on a night that she “will never forget.”
It’s a night that gymnastics fans shouldn’t forget, either. Rose, a Level 10 from the highly successful J.O. gym Southeastern Gymnastics in Weddington, NC, is already verbally committed to the University of Denver for 2020.
Rose decided not to compete at her 2017 J.O. Nationals qualifying meet due to an illness, but she’s busily looking ahead to her next season. “My new personal short-term goal is to continue with that momentum, train hard, come back stronger than ever next season and place at 2018 J.O. Nationals!” she says. “I would also love to earn the opportunity to compete at the 2018 Nastia Liukin Cup! A constant short-term goal of mine is to always compete well for my team. My long-term goal is to keep consistent and build on my skills so that I can contribute to my future team at Denver University. I am looking forward to competing NCAA gymnastics!”
Rose’s favorite apparatus is floor exercise, where she excels with power and enthusiasm, along with an unparalleled connection to her music. “I love to perform my routine and show off my skills!” she says. “My team gets really into cheering loudly for each other and it is so fun to feed off that energy when competing.”
This future NCAA athlete notes that she has definitely been inspired by Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin, “with their sportsmanship and friendship that they share,” says Rose. “Shawn Johnson with all that power and Nastia Liukin with all that grace, always made me think they were such a dynamic duo! But mostly, my teammates inspire me every day!” Rose also attributes much of her success to her incredible support system of family, friends, and coaches. “I wouldn’t be where I am without their support!”
Rose strives for elite-level skills to bolster her routines and to further contribute to her team and individual accomplishments. “A few skills that I am proud of are my back handspring, layout, layout on beam, my 2 ½ dismount off beam and my full-in pike on floor,” says Rose. “I have been working on new skills that I can’t wait to compete next season! I thoroughly enjoyed competing on podium at the 2017 Nastia Liukin Cup and would love to have that opportunity again!”
As Rose looks ahead to the rest of her J.O. journey and her NCAA career at Denver, she says that she hopes to “be an inspiration and role model to the young gymnasts coming up.”
When Bronwyn Hoffman steps onto the floor at a gymnastics competition, it’s easy to forget that she’s only ten years old, as her presence, dance ability, and star quality are truly remarkable for any gymnast. But she already has a wealth of experience to her name, including five California state championship titles and “a total 100 gold medals,” as Bronwyn says. “I love going to [the] gym every day, working hard and seeing my improvement. My amazing coaches [have] really guided me and helped me become the gymnast I am and hope to be in the future.”
Bronwyn trains with her coaches Galina Marinova and Artur Akopyan at All Olympia Gymnastics Center in California, the same gym that produced McKayla Maroney, Mattie Larson, and Samantha Shapiro (all of whom were known for their expressive artistry). “We do ballet sessions at my gym for 45 minutes every Saturday,” says Bronwyn, adding that despite her beautiful balletic routines, she’s never had any formal ballet classes. “I have had really awesome choreography coaches and my own coaches at AOGC as well that help a lot with the dance. In the future, I’d really like to take ballet and/or dance classes to improve my floor and beam routines.”
Bronwyn, who turns eleven in August, considers vault to be her favorite apparatus (“It’s fun to soar through the air”), and it’s also one of her best events—she took home the gold on vault at the 2017 Region 1 Championships in March. Inspired by videos of Nastia Liukin and Nadia Comaneci, Bronwyn’s ultimate dream is to be selected to the 2024 U.S. Olympic team. (A native of Los Angeles, she would love for the Games to end up in her home town.) She also hopes to compete collegiately one day, but currently she’s focusing on harder skills for the upcoming elite level. “I am most looking forward to traveling a bit as an elite gymnast,” says Bronwyn, who has attended the Developmental Training Camps this year. “I am so curious about other places since I haven’t had the opportunity to travel much yet, [as] I’m so busy working hard in the gym. I have a long way to go yet, but [I’m] inspired to be a part of such an incredible group of athletes.”
It’s relatively rare to see such refined elegance as when Samantha Wu mounts the beam or the floor. Combining seamless connections with graceful power, this 13-year-old’s routines are definitely promising.
A veteran of the TOPS A camps, Samantha competed at the prestigious HOPES Championships in conjunction with the 2015 Secret U.S. Classic. She also recently won the balance beam title at the 2017 Region 1 Level 10 Championships. “My long-term goal is to do gymnastics in college,” she says.
The talented Level 10 gymnast and accomplished pianist is coached by Paul Duron and Judy Zhuo at West Valley Gymnastics (formerly the home of 1996 Olympic champ Amy Chow), and she trains 30 hours a week. Samantha, whose favorite apparatus is floor, feels greatly inspired by 2016 Olympic champion Laurie Hernandez, “because of how young she is. She’s only 16 and she made it to the U.S Olympic gymnastics team. That shows me that no matter how young you are, you can still push yourself to be on the U.S gymnastics team.”
As she gears up for the 2018 season and beyond, Samantha looks forward to someday competing elite and traveling extensively. “I would be excited to be part of the next generation of Team USA,” she says. “Just having the opportunity to make it is a big honor.”
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