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UCLA gymnast Margzetta Frazier rebuilds skills, confidence after foot injury

Redshirt senior Margzetta Frazier hugs a teammate after her bars routine at the Super 16 in Las Vegas on Jan. 7. Frazier missed nearly the entire 2022 season with a foot injury, but opted to return for a fifth season. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)

By Genevieve Trimbell

Jan. 16, 2023 11:13 p.m.

Margzetta Frazier is a three-time All-American, a four-time All-Pac-12 honoree and a former U.S. National Team member. She’s hit all 98 routines of her collegiate career without ever falling.

But when the UCLA gymnastics redshirt senior returned for her fifth year after missing nearly all of 2022 with a broken foot, it felt like she was starting from scratch.

“I remember when I started training again this July, I would cry every day after practice because I just felt so defeated and sore and weak,” Frazier said. “I’m thinking so hard about skills that I’ve been doing since I was 10 years old.”

Frazier began her UCLA career in 2019, the year after the Bruins won the NCAA championship. On a team with multiple upperclassmen with Olympic, world and NCAA titles under their belt, Frazier said it was easy for her to sit back and do her own thing.

Now, she’s realized her role on the team is to act as a leader.

“Now that I’m a senior, I find myself in more of a third-person approach to gymnastics than a first-person,” Frazier said. “As soon as I go up to the girls on the podium, and I say, ‘You got this. Remember your cues,’ their face automatically changes and it looks like a big weight being taken off their shoulders.”

That feeling is a reversal of roles from the summer when Frazier said she was taking cues and inspiration from her younger teammates. After missing nearly the entirety of the 2022 season, she announced her decision to take a fifth year.

When she returned, not only had her teammates changed since her first year on the team, but her coaches did as well. Retaining only assistant coach BJ Das, UCLA hired an entirely new staff after the 2022 season.

This transition came in the wake of the controversy surrounding former coach Chris Waller, with several gymnasts, including Frazier, voicing their displeasure with the former staff.

[Related: UCLA gymnast Margzetta Frazier calls for coaching change amid hostile environment]

Junior Chae Campbell said the new coaching staff’s energy has been essential to the success of the team.

“It (the energy) makes a lot of difference. I think that’s very apparent,” Campbell said. “I’m grateful that our coaching staff has been very positive and very helpful and just been by our sides throughout this journey.”

The new staff’s influence has been immediately apparent. In the first two weeks of the season, UCLA’s average score of 197.563 is nearly two points higher than its average at the same point last season.

Frazier said her struggles to relearn gymnastics were aided by the new staff and teammates.

“Watching all of the girls come in every day, even when they’re tired and they’d rather sleep in, really helped me improve,” Frazier said. “I’m just really grateful for them and (coach) Janelle (McDonald) and the rest of the coaches for being really patient with me and working from scratch.”

Part of learning gymnastics again has included conquering unforeseen mental blocks. After some shaky landings in her first floor routine back, Frazier found herself in the lineup again and said she was nervous about going back out to compete.

This time, she nearly matched her career high on the event with a 9.925. Supportive words from Das helped to settle her nerves, Frazier said.

“I’ve developed so much anxiety with my gymnastics and that’s very unlike me,” Frazier said. “Before floor, BJ said, ‘Marz, stop thinking and start feeling,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, she’s right.’”

Das has not been the only one working with Frazier. McDonald said the decision to put Frazier as an exhibition on beam rather than in the lineup Saturday was part of her commitment to meeting her gymnasts where they are.

“Day by day, we’re going to make the best decision for our team,” McDonald said. “I love that Marz was able to get out there and do an exhibition routine and just get the experience of competing beam, even though it wasn’t in the lineup.”

Despite her self-proclaimed struggles at the beginning of her comeback, Frazier has contributed five counting scores in six routines this season to help UCLA begin the 2023 season with its best start in years.

She said it’s just the beginning.

“I’m getting my mojo back,” Frazier said. “Every meet it’s coming back a little more, getting a little more confident.”

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Genevieve Trimbell | Sports contributor
Trimbell is currently a contributor on the gymnastics and rowing beats.
Trimbell is currently a contributor on the gymnastics and rowing beats.
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