Eyebrows are usually raised in surprise when an athlete turns down a full scholarship. But for Ti Liu, the choice to join the UCLA gymnastics team as a walk-on was an easy one to make.
“UCLA is one of the best in gymnastics, and obviously, it is a very good school academically,” Liu said. “I really love the weather here, and everyone is so friendly.”
The incoming freshman, who is currently enrolled in Summer Session A, was offered a full scholarship to Oregon State but turned it down at her mother’s insistence.
Liu joins letter-of-intent signees Cassie Whitcomb and Dana McDonald as part of the 2012 freshman class. She is also the latest addition to the growing number of Canadians on the team.
Although she was born in China, the trilingual Liu has lived in Montreal since the age of 5 and speaks Mandarin, French and English fluently.
She helped the Canadian team to a third-place finish at the 2007 Pan American Games and that same year won the balance beam title in the junior division at the Canadian Championships.
“(Liu) is a beautiful gymnast,” said coach Valorie Kondos Field.
“Her flexibility and long lines are especially suited for bars and
beam, which are her specialties. … (She) is fitting in beautifully with her teammates, who are still here and in school.”
The success of former walk-on and recent graduate Niki Tom is an encouraging sign that Liu can be a significant contributor to the team without a scholarship.
“I just have to work hard, and maybe I will have a scholarship next year,” Liu said. “It doesn’t really matter to me that I’m a walk-on.”
Back to being Bruins
Former UCLA assistant coach Randy Lane and former UCLA All-American Amy Smith return to Westwood to join the coaching staff next season.
Lane, who was named National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2000 after helping the Bruins claim a national title, will return to UCLA as an assistant coach for the third time. He also worked alongside Kondos Field from 1992-1994 and 1998-2001.
Lane will replace Jim Foody, who left after being offered a position as the head coach at the Josephson’s Academy of Gymnastics.
Smith returns to Westwood as a volunteer coach after a stint at Missouri. She has quickly established herself as a respected choreographer after creating the routines of six All-Americans from 2003-2006.
The co-captain of UCLA’s 1997 national championship team, Smith earned first team All-American honors twice on floor and once on vault throughout her collegiate career.
“It was very important that we brought in coaches who would fit in seamlessly with the philosophies and values of our program and who we could look to for new ways to enhance the structure that is already in place,” said Kondos Field on the addition of Lane and Smith to the coaching staff.
In addition to new positions for Lane and Smith, assistant head coach Chris Waller has been promoted to associate head coach. A 1991 UCLA graduate, he has been with the Bruin gymnastics team since 2003 and has received numerous coaching awards.