Six-time world medalist Rebecca Bross (U.S.) talks with IG about the recent world championships, her ankle injury, a rivalry with Russia and more. Pictured: 2010 world all-around medalists Jiang Yuyuan of China (silver), Aliya Mustafina of Russia (gold) and Bross (bronze).
IG sits down with U.S. champion Rebecca Bross, a six-time world medalist and a top hope for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Born July 11, 1993, in Michigan, Bross trained at Twistars Gymnastics through Level 7. In 2002, she moved to Texas and began training at World Olympic Gymnastics Academy (WOGA), where her coaches are now Valeri Liukin and Dina Kamalova. Liukin, a world and Olympic champion himself, coached daughter Nastia Liukin to the 2008 Olympic all-around title and nine world medals from 2005-2007. Kamalova coached Russia's Aliya Mustafina, the new world all-around champion, at CSKA Moscow before moving to Texas a few years ago.
Bross performs a sheep jump en route to the silver medal on beam in Rotterdam, her sixth world medal.
Bross, a member of the U.S. junior national team since 2005, won four gold medals (all-around, vault, uneven bars, floor exercise) at the 2007 U.S. Junior Championships. She won the junior title at the 2008 Pacific Rim Championships, but a broken foot forced her out of that year's national championships.
In 2009, her first year as a senior, Bross took third all-around at the U.S. championships and second at the world championships. At the 2009 Worlds in London, she had been leading the competition going into the final rotation, but a botched final pass on floor exercise dropped her to second by a mere .05. In the event finals, she added the bronze on uneven bars.
In 2010, Bross easily won the Tyson American Cup, the Pacific Rim Championships and the U.S. championships, but in September began experiencing pain in her lower right leg/ankle. Despite the injury, Bross captured four medals at the world championships in October in Rotterdam: silver medals with the team and on balance beam, and bronze medals in the all-around and on uneven bars.
Initially diagnosed as a stress reaction prior to worlds, the hot spot on Bross' ankle developed into a stress fracture. On Tuesday, Bross underwent surgery, in which doctors inserted two screws into the bone to ensure the fracture heals properly.
IG stopped by WOGA in Plano, Texas, to chat with Bross a few days before her ankle surgery. The injury limited Bross to mainly uneven bars and conditioning, while her training partners in Liukin's group showed off some impressive new skills for the upcoming season. Grace McLaughlin, a senior next year, threw a beautiful Jaeger-half on uneven bars, while Katelyn Ohashi, a senior in 2013, tumbled a 2 1/2, Rudi combination on floor. Nastia Liukin — who only recently returned to training full-time as she tests the waters for a comeback — looked outstanding, and caught a new layout Jaeger from elgrip. Two-time world team member Ivana Hong, who also trains under Liukin and Kamalova, looked physically fit after a torn ACL in February.
Focused and serious during competition, Bross was bubbly and easygoing while chatting about the recent world championships, her ankle injury, a rivalry with Russia and more.
Bross ices her ankle during podium training at the world championships in Rotterdam.
IG: When did your ankle start bothering you?
RB: Maybe a month or so before our second camp before worlds. I'm not quite sure what happened. I felt it one day at the end of the week but I figured my ankle was just sore. But then it didn't go away over the weekend so it was like, "OK, something's not right."
IG: What was the diagnosis?
RB: I got an MRI before we left and they called it a "stress reaction," so it was just irritated, I guess. And then when I got back [from Rotterdam] I went back and got X-rays, and you could see the fractures on the X-rays. So some time when I was gone it actually broke.
IG: How did you modify your training to protect your ankle?
RB: Just tried to do the least amount of numbers possible, but I still had to work out because we had worlds.
IG: Was there ever a point where you thought you might not be able to compete in Rotterdam?
RB: Yeah, it did cross my mind and it did make me kind of nervous I guess, but the more that I thought about it, it's like, "I've done this, everything I've done so many times! It doesn't matter, I should be able to do it."
IG: Going into the competition, did you think you might not compete all four events?
Bross during podium training in Rotterdam
RB: Yes, and it was being debated whether or not I would. We still weren't sure when we first got over there. It wasn't really decided until podium training, I guess, when I actually did all four events that one time. I guess Valeri pretty much said, "You can do all four events, so we might as well keep trying."
IG: How much was your ankle bothering you during the competition?
RB: While you're competing you don't really think about it. I don't really notice it, but it was kind of sore afteward, but not during the competition.
IG: During the team final, were you aware of the falls from Russia and China on bars? Could you hear the audience reaction?
RB: We did hear that, and I did hear a couple of smacks [when they fell], but I guess one of the [Russian] girls fell twice? But I didn't know that. I only knew that one of them fell. I didn't find out till afterwards that one fell twice. I just knew one girl fell once, and then I saw one of the Chinese girl's mistakes. We weren't watching them, we were more focused on ourselves. You can always hear the crowd so you know something's happened, but you don't know what!
IG: After Mattie Larson missed her floor routine in the third rotation, what did you say to her?
RB: There's not much you can say. You just have to tell her it happens and she has to move on, and it's not something she can change now. It's something that happened and she has to move on to get past it.
IG: Were you aware of how close the competition was, going into the final rotation?
RB: We weren't sure. We knew it was closer than it was in qualification obviously. We were happy that we started on bars because vault was our last event and we have pretty good vaulters. I'm not one of them [laughs] but we had Ali (Alexandra Raisman) and Macko (Mackenzie Caquatto) and Alicia (Sacramone) and they all had, like, three perfect vaults, so we were happy we were ending on vault because vault is one of our strongest events. We were ready for it.
IG: When Mustafina stepped out of bounds on her last pass, did you think you had the gold?
Bross on beam during qualification in Rotterdam
RB: We weren't sure. We obviously finished vault before they finished floor. So we were all standing over in the corner and we kind of watched her floor routine, and we were like, "OK, this is going to be close! Either it's going to be us barely, or it's going to be them barely." And it was them.
IG: Were you happy that you at least beat China, after being third in qualification?
RB: Yeah, that's what we said. At least we beat China!
IG: You were second all-around to Mustafina in qualification. Going into the final, did you feel like you had to be perfect for a chance to win, or were you more laid back?
RB: Of course I wanted to be perfect, I wanted to do all my routines the best I can. It didn't exactly turn out that way (laughs) but I put a lot of effort into it.
IG: You put up an impressive fight to stay on beam on your standing Arabian, ending up in a handstand!
RB: Yeah, I was off to the side and then I put my hands on the beam... (laughing)
IG: After beam, you went on to earn the highest score all week on floor exercise. What did Valeri tell you before your floor routine?
RB: He was just like, "You need to go out there and do a really good floor routine." It doesn't matter, I had already messed up on beam, so it was like, "I don't have anything to lose, now I just need to go out there and do everything I do in practice."
IG: Was your fall on your last pass at the 2009 Worlds in the back of your mind at that point?
RB: I guess. I kind of did think about it a little bit, but [I was thinking], "I haven't been doing floor very much lately, and I already fell on beam, I've just got to make this!"
IG: You have six world medals already, all silver and bronze. How badly do you want a gold?
RB: It would be amazing. It would be like a dream come true, but it's one of my goals and we're just going to have to see what happpens next.
IG: What's it like having Nastia back in the gym every day?
RB: It's great! We talk a lot.
Bross on floor at the 2009 Worlds in London
IG: You seemed to follow Nastia's pattern a little bit, in that you were second all-around at your first worlds, and suffering from an ankle injury at your second worlds a year later. Did you talk about that coincidence?
RB: Not really, but she did talk about it at one point, how she never won a world all-around gold. I was just kind of like, "That's true, everything happens. Nothing you can do to change it."
IG: Does it make you hungrier going into 2011 and 2012?
RB: I don't know, of course I want to get it, but it's like after doing two worlds I know what to expect next. I know how it goes. Last year was kind of different from this year because it wasn't team, so it was a little bit of a different atmosphere. It's still competition regardless. You want yourself to do well and the whole team to do well.
IG: Are you close with any of your teammates in particular?
RB: We all know each other pretty well. I roomed with Chelsea Davis [in Rotterdam]. We live close to each other but we never see each other! (laughs) We're going to try to change that.
IG: Do you feel like you have a rivalry with Mustafina?
RB: You're always competing against everyone, not just a single person. It doesn't matter who it is, you're always competing and you always want to do your best. I wouldn't say there's a real rivalry, but we just want to do our best and whatever happens, however the judges score it, it's how it happens.
IG: Has Dina Kamalova told you any stories about her days coaching Mustafina?
RB: We don't really talk about it much, we more talk about stuff that goes on here [at WOGA].
IG: So would you say Russia is now the top rival for the U.S., or is it the same?
RB: It's the same. It doesn't matter, there's always going to be countries coming up and down and it changes every year. People get hurt, people aren't hurt. It's just the same.
IG: How is your relationship with the gymnasts from Russia and China? Do things get tense down on the floor, or is it more of a relaxed atmosphere?
RB: I think it's more relaxed. We don't really talk to each other or look at each other because everyone is focused on themselves and how they want to do, and if it's a team competition, how their team is doing.
IG: So any idea when your next competition will be?
RB: We'll see!
External Link: Official Website of Rebecca Bross