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Long after the fall, Minnetonka gymnast still has drive

12/04/2012, 4:17pm CST
By Star Tribune

Mikayla Wandersee

Mikayla Wandersee laughs when she sees video of her most memorable gymnastics mistake, one that would make gymnasts cringe and most parents determined to find a safer pastime for their children.

"When I was a level 6 in club gymnastics [she was about 7 years old] and I peeled off the bars," the Minnetonka high school junior said. "I fell right onto the low bar. I tore my stomach open. It was kind of a fluke thing. Looking back, I laugh when I see it."

It also shows the determination that goes into being a gymnast.

Wandersee, one of three team captains and a Class 2A state meet all-around competitor last season, feels that same drive toward her goal of helping the Skippers get back to the state meet, where they appeared for the first time in three decades last February.

Staff writer Jim Paulsen talked with Wandersee about the upcoming gymnastics season.

Q How long have you been a gymnast?

A I've been dong the sport since I was 5. It's the only sport I've ever done.

Q How did you start?

A When I was little, I went to a friend's birthday party at a gymnastics gym. I was hooked. I couldn't stop tumbling. I'd tumble all over the house and on the furniture. My parents thought it would be a lot safer if I did it in a gym with proper coaching.

Q What is your favorite event?

A I like the floor [exercise]. I really like to dance and show off my floor routine. It's combining grace with athleticism.

Q Which one makes you the most nervous?

A The [balance] beam. You have to know what you're capable of doing and have enough reps to complete them. You have to brush off all of the nerves and focus.

Q How tough do you have to be to be a gymnast?

A You need to be both physically strong and mentally strong. So much has to do with the mental aspect. Some of these skills are dangerous, and you have to be mentally prepared to commit to them.

Q How does last season carry over to this year?

A Last year was huge. We hadn't gone [to state] in something like 37 years, so we're hoping we can come back and do it again.

Q How does the team look?

A I think the team will do well. We did have 11 seniors graduate, but we have a lot of younger girls coming in. They have had so much dedication and put in hard work that you can see we are already improving and we haven't had our first meet of the season yet.

Q The Olympics were held last summer. Have you noticed any added interest in gymnastics after the success of the U.S. women's team?

A From a gymnastics standpoint, it encourages me to work harder and try to improve. If they can do it, so can I. It gives me hope.

Q Do you expect more fan interest?

A It seems like there's a lot more people coming up to me and asking about it, looking to be more involved, wanting to buy SuperFan T-shirts.

Q Did you have an Olympic favorite?

A I'd definitely say Gabby Douglas. You know it had to be hard for her to move away from her family to work on her dreams, but it did pay off.

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