Former member of the Brown gymnastics team Alicia Sacramone stood in front of her old team just two weeks before she traveled to the World Championships. The USA team member and former Bruno standout was returning from a two-year hiatus from gymnastics, and spoke to the team about their upcoming season.
"She's very optimistic," said co-captain Victoria Zanelli '11 of Sacramone. "Just seeing her take off all of that time when she didn't do gymnastics and then exercise and come back and have all of those skills even better than they were before the Olympics is just really impressive."
Just a few days later, Sacramone earned the world vault title, defeating Russia's Aliya Mustafina by .134 points, in a fantastic return to gymnastics. Brown Head Coach Sara Carver-Milne said this year's talent is no different.
"This is one of the most talented teams Brown has had in several years," said Carver-Milne. "We're very young."
The developing team only graduated two seniors last year in Izzy Kirkham-Lewitt '10 and Helen Segal '10. In contrast, the team boasts six new freshman additions. Runners-up in the Ivy League last year, the team will now look for contributions from that young talent in order to make a run at the title and reach other team aspirations.
"Our biggest goal is qualify for Nationals," said co-captain Chelsey Binkley '11. "We've never done that and this is the first team that has had the talent to do it. We're calling it the rebirth, the Renaissance year, holding ourselves to a new standard of how we should perform and performing better than we have in the past."
But talent will only get a team so far, and Carver-Milne was quick to highlight the team's effort to improve in the off-season.
"I'm really impressed with the work the girls put in this summer," she said. "They all look in shape and ready to compete."
College gymnastics has a very different dynamic than other levels of the sport, which is often individualized. The team focus is much more prevalent in college competitions, and gymnasts tend to attempt riskier, more difficult routines for the benefit of the team.
"Katie Goddard ('12) learned a completely new vault to increase our scoring potential," Carver-Milne said.
Team-first efforts like Goddard's will be pivotal for the Bears' chances to surpass 190 points during competitions.
Top returners include Binkley in the vault, Julia Meyer '13 in the uneven bars and Emily Lutfey '13 in the all-around.
"(Lutfey) is getting her skills through and she's already doing routines," Zanelli said. "We should see a lot from her this year."
The team will open its season Jan. 16 at home against Towson University and the University of Bridgeport.