Cassie Whitcomb is one of our lovelier gymnasts. The 17 year old, who trains with Mary Lou Tracy at Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy, has been an elite gymnast since2006, when she qualified as a juinor. That year, she took 6th at Classics on bars and also made the National Team, as well as claiming the AA title at the Top Gym Competition in Belgium. She was also a National Team Member in 07 (10th Nationals), 08 (3rd AA at Nationals, 2nd bars) and 09 (8th AA, 2nd bars, 5th fx).

This year, Cassie competed at both Classics and Nationals. At the former she was 4th AA, 3rd on bars, 2nd on beam (5 way tie), 8th on vault (tie) and 3rd on floor. She did not compete beam at Nationals because her back was bothering her and beam is the hardest on her back, but she did place 7th on floor and 2nd on bars, making the National Team once again. She was invited to the World Team selection camps–there were 2 this year–where she did reasonably well. At the first camp, she won the physical abilities test. However, Marta declined to take Cassie to Worlds this year. Cassie says that she did “work really hard to make the team and yes is was a disappointment when (she) didn’t… But I know that the selection committee puts together a team that they think can get the most out of. I trust their judgment and hope that the girls do amazing at Worlds.”

In terms of future Worlds, well, that remains to be seen. Although Cassie has verballed to UCLA, she is not sure when she will start, although she knows she will have to decide soon! However, she does know that once she starts college, she plans on just doing NCAA: she will not be trying to balance both. She is, however, excited about UCLA, saying that she loved the atmosphere. She wants to study marine biology, too, and feels that UCLA is the ideal place to do so.

Cassie has been–and this I found surprising–on the elite track since she was a third grader, when she switched to online schooling. She will graduate from Ohio Virtual Academy in the spring of 2011.

On training with Mary Lee Tracy, she had this to say:

“Mary Lee is a great coach. She has had so many years of experience with gymnastics. She has used many different tools to help her gymnast fulfill their full potential. She not only teaches us the physical part of gymnastics but also the mental part. She also finds ways to incorporate what we learn in gymnastics to skills that we will need in everyday life. I am not sure what people say about her. All I know is that she is a great coach and I am honored that she can coach me.”

Cassie’s favorite skill to train and compete is her geinger on bars, the first release she ever learned.  Her least favorite is her back 2 1/2 to front 1/1 on the floor, since she’s never been terribly fond of twisting.

Cassie says that the best thing about gymnastics has been that it “has given me the chance to travel the world and meet new people. It has presented me with lots of challenges that I have developed the skills to overcome. The best thing I take from gymnastics would be the friendships that I have created along the way.”

On the things she’s given up to be an elite gymnast and the decision to do so, she told me that the decision  “was relatively easy to make because I had always wanted to be an elite gymnast and when the opportunity came to become one, I took it. Yes, elite gymnasts do give up normal things but in return we get to tra

vel the world. I say that’s a pretty fair trade. There are times when your friends invite you to a party but you cant go because you have practice. It may seem terrible at the time but when you think about the opportunities you have been given and all the experiences you get to have, you remember why you chose the path you are on.”

I really liked Cassie’s response about her best memories of gymnastics: “The best experience I’ve had in the sport would have to be when I got to represent the USA in Italy. It was a huge honor to say “I am competing for the United States of America”. Something about that just gives you chills. Then when we won the competition, you felt like you were on top of the whole world. It was an amazing experience to be there with all of the girls and I would do it all over again if I could.”

Thanks, Cassie.

Cassie Whitcomb, Visa Championships 2010, photographs copyright vanessa steck 2010.


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