Why I love UCLA Gymnastics…

A lot of friends have been tagging me in videos of UCLA Senior, Katelyn Ohashi’s floor routine over the last two weeks. I love that they are doing that, not because I hadn’t seen the routine (I’d posted it the day after she debuted it at their first meet on 4th Jan), but because it meant that my friends are getting excited about gymnastics.

I’ve been a long time fan of UCLA Gymnastics. When I was a youth worker, a few young people asked me about this hoodie that I often wore while working at the youth drop-in nights. There’s a story behind it that really only Miss Val (Head Coach of UCLA) knows.

ucla hoodie

In the USA collegiate sports is watched as much as football is in the UK, young people can earn scholarships to compete for university teams while earning their degree. Given the cost of university education in the USA, you can see why people do it. And for female gymnasts who often have to retire by the time they are as young as 20, it is a chance to find joy in the sport again. And that has certainly been Katelyn’s story.

The UCLA Head Coach was never a gymnast herself. She was a professional ballet dancer, and found her way into the sport playing the piano at a gymnastics club so young gymnasts could practise their floor routines. She then began helping choreograph their routines. And then found herself as an assistant coach at UCLA and worked her way up. Miss Val’s routines have always been iconic, and there are many well known routines remembered by UCLA fans.

So of course, just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock this week, I wanted you to see Katelyn’s routine. But I also want to give you the chance to see some of my favourite UCLA routines…

Angi Cipra’s ‘iPhone’ routine

Sophina DeJesus’ HipHop routine

Sadiqua Bynum performing an Onnie Willis legacy routine*

*Legacy routines are when a gymnast performs a routine originally created for and performed by an UCLA Gymnastics alum. They won’t be performed exactly the same, as there’ll always be small changes made to make the routine fit the style of the gymnast competing it.

Sydney Sawa’s ‘alien battle’ routine

Gracie Kramer’s Harley Quinn routine

…ok. There’s just so many great UCLA floor routines, that really only scratches the surface. Anyway, I hope you enjoy if you watch them!


A post that needs no words…

…if you know how much of a fan I am of artistic gymnastics. When I first became obsessed with watching Gymnastics 20 years ago, I dreamed of seeing Brits on the medal podium but doubted it would ever happen.

Last year, I got to be present when Max became the first male world champion we’d had. Tonight he ended a 108 year drought on All-Around medals, adding to his two bronze medals from London 2012 which no gymnastics journalist predicted he would win. 🙂


Well done Max (and Nile – who came 8th in a hugely competitive and closely contested men’s all around final!)

Bruin Strong…

Although I still have a soft spot for the Gators, because two of our British gymnasts are part of the Bruins team, I have been giving them my cheers from afar. Every year the gymnastics teams make their ‘Intro’ videos for the season.

This might be my favourite ever so far…

It’s Danusia Francis’ last season with the Bruins as she is now a Senior, and Jenni Pinches had to medically retire and is now a student Assistant Coach. And I will definitely miss Sadiqua and Sophina’s routines once they leave at the end of the season too. Ladies, hope you make super six this year. I only wish I could one day come to Pauley to cheer you on.

When a dream comes true

When I watched the Atlanta Olympics, I dreamed of one day going to see the Olympics in person. I also used to scour the newspapers for any coverage of the European and World Gymnastics Championships. I was gutted (and still a little bitter) that I didn’t get tickets for the London 2012 Olympics, instead I took a week off work to watch the Tokyo 2011 World Gymnastics Championships, which had me awake at all hours of the day and night so I could watch online. It’s also when I became a wikimedian creating and updating pages about artistic gymnastics and the athletes, in the hope that journalists and spectators new to the sport would be better informed.

I noted that year, that the next Olympic qualifier championships would be held in my home country. And I got excited. The Olympics was on my bucket list, but going to a world championships was too.

However, when the tickets became available, I was unemployed. And the tickets were not cheap. I wanted to get an all-event pass, but it wasn’t to be. I thought my dream was dead, and I realised that if I didn’t go I would likely regret it forever. So two months ago I asked for a couple of days off work, and just bought some tickets to two of the event finals days.


Standing outside the SSE Hydro waiting for my friend, Lynn, to arrive (Lynn has come with me to two World Cup events) I happened to recognise two men walking towards me. I suddenly realised who they were…Steve Penney (the head of USA Gymnastics) and the famous gymnastics coach, Bela Karolyi. I said hello, and Steve was so kind and asked if I’d like a photo with Bela. I said I should get a photo with both of them. 🙂

We cheered and whooped as Max and Dan performed in the All-Around final, we also cheered on Danell Leyva of the USA (because we have a soft spot for him, and his coach, Yin Alvarez after they came to the Glasgow World Cup). And Lynn got to see Kohei Uchimura perform. And win. Again.


The next day, my Mum (who came with me to the Commonwealth Games) and I went to see the first day of apparatus event finals. She was sad her favourite wasn’t there (that’s Dan Keatings because in her words “he’s got a lovely smile, he looks like a nice boy”), but pleased to see Dan Purvis and Max Whitlock in Floor finals and yelled and cheered so loudly a few people turned round to look! She also is a huge fan of Strictly Come Dancing, so she always remembers Louis Smith too, and Louis and Max were in the Pommel Horse final. She was texting her husband as the medals stacked up. And we got to see history made as the men followed in the trail blazed by Beth Tweddle. We got our first men’s Gold medal.


The next time I’ll likely have a chance of making it to a World Championships is the 2019 championships in Stuttgart, and now having met another gymnastics fan who was there on her own, I feel like I’m no longer alone in my crazy fandom. With some saving…it is possible!

But whatever happens, I can now tick off ‘see an All-Around final at the World Championships’ off of my bucket list. 🙂

Life in dungarees…

My blogging is getting sporadic again, and this week I really have NO excuse not to blog as it’s the Tattie Holidays – which means I’ve got FOUR free evenings this week (this is unheard of).

There’s lots to write about good and bad.

I’m going to start with the bad because I’d rather end on good.

The bad…is that the winter blues have arrived. I suffer from something called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which means when the weather gets colder, the nights get longer I really struggle to go about my daily life. Everyone is affected in different ways, but for me, it usually means getting very depressed (most mornings as I’m getting up I will be very tearful), I struggle to sleep at night and quite often will start having short-term memory loss/lack of concentration (which I think is usually a result of the insomnia). I’ve had a lot of support from my online friends, some of whom have had depression, some of whom also have SAD and discovered a number of things that help. I use an app called ‘Flux’ on my laptop to simulate daylight/nighttime. Trying to stock my freezer up with at least semi-healthy comfort food (as in bad times, I find it difficult to get energy and motivation up to go to shops to buy food to make proper meals) like soups, fruit crumbles and chilli. This year, it really hit me last week and within two days I was climbing the walls with despair, and it took every ounce of strength and courage I had to get myself out the house on a cold rainy day to get to my Italian class. I cried most of the way there, because I honestly in that moment had forgotten what sunshine looked and felt like and felt like I would never see proper daylight again. Last night I bit the bullet and used some of my tuition fees savings to invest in a Lumie alarm clock which simulates sunrise. I’ve been recommended this by two SAD sufferers, and really hope that it helps me this winter season.

Ok. So. On with the good and exciting.

1. I have rediscovered dungarees

As I wrote on my Girlguiding blog, my Guides were doing a badge created by a unit in Lesmahagow called the ‘Minion Mayhem Challenge’ and on the last night of Guides before the holidays we all dressed up as minions. This meant spending two afternoons going to every charity shop, vintage clothing shop and fashion retail shop in Edinburgh city centre to find a pair of blue denim dungarees. And a yellow top. Eventually I got a pair, they are a little big but man are dungarees comfortable!! I don’t care what I look like, I’m now going to be wearing them more often.

2. Ballet Fridays


Though soon I’ll be arriving in the dark (sob!) but how can you not love this view that is at the back of the National Centre for Dance? Our teacher is continually getting us to work on the details of our movements and though my feet and legs are often very sore the next day, I’m loving my classes. And I finally found a ballet leotard to fit into. This is mainly so I can wear ballet tights as one of my classmates said “He [our ballet teacher] is the only man I shave my legs for“. And let’s be honest in winter…it’s too cold to walk around in cropped leggings!

3. A reason to go back to Glasgow…Part 1IMG_5944

My friends very generously and amazingly gifted me something extremely special this summer. They got us tickets (so I can go with them) to see one of my favourite bands play in Glasgow. I am finally getting to see Death Cab for Cutie live! I haven’t bought a music album since I got made redundant last year, but found their latest album at a very good price in a music shop while on a search for dungarees last week. I’ve been listening to it in my Mum’s car ever since. Coincidentally their album shares a title with my friend Holly’s new blog: Kintsugi.

4. A reason to go back to Glasgow…Part 2.


Three years ago I found out that the World Artistics Gymnastics Championships would be held in Glasgow in 2015. Going to see a World Championships (and a Europeans, and an Olympics) has been on my bucket list since 1996. The only problem was that when the tickets came out at the beginning of this year, I was paying tuition fees for university and was on Jobseeker’s Allowance. So I didn’t have money to get season ticket. I realised a few weeks ago that I would likely regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t go. So I bit the bullet and bought two tickets to both the Men’s All Around and the first day of Individual Apparatus Event Finals. I don’t know who will come with me yet mind you, but although I’m going to be in the cheapest, crappiest seats….I AM GOING TO SEE THE OLYMPIC QUALIFYING WORLD ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS CHAMPIONSHIPS IN PERSON. It’s in the same venue as the Commonwealth Games was last year.

5. My brain is confused with all the words


I couldn’t take Spanish this term (still) and so I decided to learn Italian because I wanted a class that was during the day and midweek, and then because I got that funded, I decided to learn German too. I’m actually enjoying learning German better as I feel the classes are more intensive and I’m learning more and having a better understanding of the language than I am in Italian. One of my old blog friends suggested in jest a few months ago that I should go work for an international school in Germany, and well…if that ever becomes more serious than a joke…at least I’ll know more German than ice cream, chocolate, scoop and apple juice. If I’m still only working part-time and able to get the funding again I may continue with German next semester.

And last but not least…

6. Airmail Christmas

Yes, we will be doing Airmail Christmas again this year. Rebecca isn’t able to coordinate it this year, but as I helped her do this in the first year (as she was in Australia) I’m stepping in again! We have contacted a family of someone we would like to honour, and hope we will have more details about how you can sign up and participate next month.

BK’s YouTube Picks: The Summer I fell in love with gymnastics

Some people ask me how I became such a huge fan of gymnastics. Really there were two reasons. Firstly, I loved to dance. Secondly, I loved the Olympics (the first Olympics I remember is the 1992 games in Barcelona). In 1996, I was almost a teenager, had my own TV for the first time which recorded things on VHS tape. And I was a night owl – so the Atlanta Games were often on when I should have been going to sleep. The team finals had me captivated and my favourite team were the Romanians. Artistic gymnastics had dance incorporated into it with no props like the rhythmic gymnasts had. I used my grandparents’ newspaper to find out when the other competitions were and remember recording and watching the All-Around final live.

I really loved watching Lilia Podkopayeva on Floor and Beam especially. And I remember words of Mitch Fenner’s commentary (and he still commentates for the BBC at gymnastics events with Matt Baker and Christine Still) “clearly a delightful mix”. She was not the last gymnast to compete and I remember the moment when China’s Mo Huilan fell out of one of her tumbling moves, Fenner’s audible shocked groan and the other male commentator proclaiming ‘And the title is Podkopayeva’s!’.  As Mo Huilan courageously continued through the rest of her routine, I felt both bad for Huilan, but very happy for Lilia. Lilia became the first woman to hold simultaneously hold the All-Around titles in the European, World and Olympic championships for more than 20 years.

I started high school after that Olympics, and one of our English projects was a creative writing scrapbook where we had to create a character and a scrapbook of their life. Unsurprisingly my character was a gymnast, she was Scottish, but she was named Lilia. And I think she had some sisters who all had the names of famous gymnasts too! 🙂