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UCLA gymnastics welcomes freshmen to gym for preseason camp

Freshman Ana Padurariu was one of seven Bruins who officially began their collegiate careers when UCLA gymnastics reported to practice Sept. 7. (Courtesy of Eric Hurd/UCLA Athletics)

By Sam Settleman

Sept. 13, 2021 5:31 p.m.

Yates Gym is no longer dormant.

UCLA gymnastics officially started preseason camp Sept. 7, four months before it is set to kick off its 2022 campaign. The opening week in the gym also marked the first practices for seven new Bruins, including six freshmen and sophomore transfer Katie McNamara.

“It was awesome, I’m not going to lie,” said freshman Ana Padurariu. “We just blast music, and I think there’s someone dancing literally every two minutes.

While the Bruins’ official report date was Sept. 7, many of the gymnasts made an early arrival to Westwood, participating in voluntary workouts. Freshman Alexis Jeffrey said the voluntary workouts allowed her to get accustomed to weight training, which wasn’t a significant part of her training regimen before coming to UCLA.

“It’s so nice because we all support each other so much. We’re all here for each other, and we’re all going through the same thing,” Jeffrey said. “If practice starts, we’re all going, we’re all sore. So having each other’s support is really nice because I know back at my home gym, not everyone was my age and not everyone was doing the same assignments as me all the time.”

Padurariu added that the Bruins cultivated a sense of camaraderie during the voluntary workouts.

“Even during the voluntary workouts when there were just five of us, we would play some rounds of volleyball and the spirit would just go over the roof,” Padurariu said. “We would have such a good workout and blast music. And I was like, ‘If it’s like that with five people, I can’t wait until the whole team is here.’”

In the process of recovering from ankle surgery in 2020, Padurariu said her injury flared up again before she came to Westwood but has significantly improved since arriving at UCLA. Padurariu noted the availability of treatment resources like cold tubs and physiotherapists.

Another freshman who has been busy rehabbing an injury is Emily Lee, who tore her Achilles in June while competing on floor in her final routine at the U.S. Olympic trials. Like Padurariu, Lee – who is 10 weeks removed from her surgery to repair the Achilles – said being with the team has vastly expanded her rehab opportunities, including doing daily rehab exercises with assistant athletic trainer Tracy Sokoler.

“(The recovery process) was rough at first because I was super sad about it,” Lee said. “But coming here, there’s so many resources available. I have Tracy, there’s (the Acosta Athletic Complex). It makes rehab so much easier versus if I were to do it at home because I didn’t have access to any of this stuff.”

Lee also has one invaluable resource – her teammates, who she said have been instrumental in her recovery process because they can empathize with her and give advice, or even just provide a ride up the Hill.

While all of Lee’s teammates reached out to her in June after the injury, one teammate in particular had a similar experience to share. Junior Chloe Lashbrook tore her Achilles in practice one week before UCLA’s season opener in January.

“Chloe’s great,” Lee said. “She’ll really give me a timeline about what’s going to happen. She’s like, ‘Oh, I have this problem. You might want to watch out for that. Or you can do this to prevent that.’ It’s just really nice.”

But Lee’s days are not only spent doing rehab exercises with Lashbrooke. The former elite gymnast is able to participate in conditioning exercises and often does Pilates with redshirt freshman Brooklyn Moors. Lee has also done some light swinging on bars.

Although the 2022 season is still months away, the Bruins had a show day Sunday, a special day at the gym in which the gymnasts could invite their friends to watch as they showed off the skills they have been working on.

Padurariu said she is just thrilled to be back in the gym.

“I’m just excited to get back into the rhythm of things,” Padurariu said. “Since quarantine, I’ve barely really trained that much and gotten into shape. So I’m excited to kind of go back into that mindset of showing things and feeling that competitiveness again.”

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Sam Settleman | Assistant Sports editor
Settleman is currently an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, women's water polo and men's water polo beats. He was previously a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
Settleman is currently an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, women's water polo and men's water polo beats. He was previously a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
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