Norah Flatley and Margzetta Frazier find friendship, bring energy to gymnastics
UCLA gymnastics sophomores Norah Flatley (right) and Margzetta Frazier (left) have been best friends since they met in 2014 at a USA national team training camp. The pair would FaceTime each other constantly between seeing each other at gymnastics events. (Liz Ketcham/Photo editor)
By Cassidy Hunt
Feb. 27, 2020 1:18 am
Norah Flatley and Margzetta Frazier FaceTimed each other every day for four years before they moved into their shared dorm at UCLA.
“We’d never miss a day, ever,” Flatley said. “Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving – every day.”
The UCLA gymnastics sophomores met for the first time at the U.S. Women’s National Team camp in 2014 and have been best friends ever since. The pair was homeschooled and used FaceTime to stay connected when they were away from camp.
But it wasn’t love at first sight.
Frazier, who attended national team training camp for the first time one year after Flatley joined, said she was intimidated by Flatley when she saw her in the gym.
“I thought Norah was so scary,” Frazier said. “She’s short, her hair was slicked back and her upper lip was stiff. She never ever smiled in the gym. She would be so serious and the next minute, she was a goofball, so I couldn’t figure out who she was.”
Flatley broke the ice.
On Frazier’s first day of training, Flatley heard a rumor that her new campmate had a beautiful singing voice and took it from there.
“(I) initiated her into ‘the friend group,’” Flatley said. “I asked her to sing in front of everybody and, together, we decided that she (had) proven herself. Ever since then, at every camp, we were automatically tight – we were best friends.”
Flatley – who hails from Iowa – and Frazier – who grew up in New Jersey – saw each other at the training camp from 2014 to 2017 and kept in touch with each other and their other elite gymnastics friends via apps like FaceTime and Houseparty when they were in their hometowns.
Olympic gold medalist Laurie Hernandez – who attended national training camp with Flatley and Frazier – said the gymnasts expanded their friendship over the phone in ways they couldn’t at camp.
“The best (stories) happened when we are all on FaceTime or Houseparty together,” Hernandez said. “We were just being idiots and acting different than we did at camp. We drew Sharpie mustaches, unibrows and facial hair on us. We wore pants on our heads and danced to random music at the same time, even though we were all apart and we loved it.”
In 2017, both Flatley and Frazier announced their retirements from international competition and their intention to compete at the collegiate level in 2018. Four years after they first met, the duo became teammates once again – this time in blue-and-gold leotards.
Flatley and Frazier unofficially visited UCLA separately in 2017 and didn’t discuss their decisions with each other until they had each made up their minds.
“We were doing our own thing,” Flatley said. “We’re obviously close, but we couldn’t base our college decisions off of each other. I remember (Frazier) saying, ‘I want us to make our own decisions, for ourselves, and not base it off our friendship. In the end, we’re here for ourselves and our schooling.’ But, I knew, already, I was coming (to UCLA).”
But the world of college gymnastics contrasted from what the lifelong-elite gymnasts were used to.
In international elite gymnastics, gymnasts train individually and convene for competitions. NCAA gymnastics introduced a team element, with which Frazier and Flatley did not have experience.
For the first time in their lives, the pair would train with a team almost every day, every week, for four years.
Hernandez said Flatley and Frazier found success in the collegiate gymnastics environment because their friendship is built on teamwork.
“In elite (gymnastics), it’s every man for himself,” Hernandez said. “You are just trying to hit your routines and do the best you can. In college, you’re not competing for you anymore, you’re competing for the team. You’re doing this together, and I think that dynamic really suits them well. That team dynamic is really what bonds (them), so I think they thrive in the place where that matters most.”
Flatley and Frazier already knew several other Bruin gymnasts from their elite careers, but they said their comfort around each other helped ease their transition into NCAA gymnastics – even if they got in trouble for being attached at the hip.
“I had my best friend (at UCLA),” Frazier said. “Of course, we would get into trouble for being clingy. I hadn’t had consistent contact with Norah ever in my life – it was either FaceTime or once a month at a camp, where we had to not really be ourselves because of the training situation.”
In addition to adjusting to collegiate gymnastics during their freshman season, the duo had to learn to open up and welcome their 17 new teammates into their circle.
“(When Flatley and Frazier started), no one else was allowed in their world,” said coach Chris Waller. “We talked about that, and over the past year and a half, that has evolved. They really have the most amazing friendship ever, but now there are all these other people that are in their world as well.”
Flatley and Frazier both finished their freshman season ranked in the top 30 on both of their events. As a team, the Bruins came in third place at the 2019 NCAA national championship.
Unlike in elite gymnastics, Flatley and Frazier could bring a little bit of chaos to their collegiate meets. The duo said their competitions are teeming with pranks and dares behind the scenes.
“We don’t take anything too seriously,” Frazier said. “We are able to enjoy gymnastics now. Life’s short, so we have fun.”
Although former head coach Valorie Kondos Field granted the pair permission to share a dorm during the 2019 season, Flatley and Frazier decided to live separately during their sophomore year.
Flatley said splitting up did not weaken their friendship – it strengthened it.
“I think (not living together) has helped us stay even closer,” Flatley said. “We aren’t constantly with each other, we have a lot of stuff going on – whether it’s school, gymnastics, boys, friends. Now, we have that little separation where we see each other and it’s even more of a connection. It makes it more special.”
Flatley has competed in every UCLA meet this season and has posted career-high 9.950s on both beam and floor.
Frazier opened the 2020 season by completing three all-around outings before an issue with her ankle slowed her down. Following her injury, Frazier competed on bars three times before halting her 2020 season completely. Frazier has not competed for the Bruins in any capacity since Feb. 9.
When UCLA traveled to Arizona State on Feb. 15, Frazier did not join them.
Waller said losing half of the energy Flatley and Frazier bring to the team affected the dynamic of the Bruins in competition.
“When (Frazier) didn’t travel (with us), we really missed that,” Waller said. “The team – especially (Flatley) – missed that other side. So much of a team is the culture and when you have this big, full, fun voice, and that’s suddenly ripped out, it makes such a difference.”
The Bruins currently rank No. 3 in the country and will compete in three more meets before entering postseason competition. There is no timetable for Frazier’s return to the UCLA lineup.
But Flatley said she and Frazier have stuck together for six years, and they aren’t going to split up any time soon.
“This is my sister,” Flatley said. “We’re the only people that know what each of us has been through. With a story like ours, there’s no way that anybody can break our friendship or come between that.”