Nastia Liukin Cup Series Feature Stories

Mackenzie Brannan
Reagan Campbell
Rachel Daum
Sydney Doggette
Samantha Partyka
Drew Watson

Emily Gaskins
Ashleigh Gnat
Charity Jones
Alex McMurtry
Mariah Peterson
Lexy Ramler

Miranda Cabada
Bridget Dean
Sydney Johnson-Scharpf
Lindsey Lemke
Ashton Locklear
Jenna Swartzentruber

Alicia Boren
Felicia Hano
Alexis Mattern
Hannah Miller
Kendal Moss
Emily Schild

Bailey Ferrer
Alma Kuc
Kari Lee
Kaytianna McMillan
Lauren Ramirez
Aja Sims

Brianna Brown
Kiera Brown
Kyana George
Amanda Wellick

Click on the athlete's name for her bio

Bailey Ferrer

By Lauren Ely

As 11-year-old Bailey Ferrer landed a double full dismount off bars, her friends exclaimed, "You're like a ninja!"

And the nickname stuck.

The little ninja, originally from Nashville, Tenn., now lives in Orlando, Fla., and trains at Orlando Metro Gymnastics. She began gymnastics when she was just 1 year old. Her mother, Lyn, has been a coach for about 15 years and served as Bailey's coach until she was 6. Since Ferrer made the move to Florida, Jeff Wood has worked as her coach.

Ferrer says qualifying for the Nastia Liukin Cup and being able to go to Karolyi's camp to go to the developmental elite camp are two moments she won't forget. However, she hopes to one day follow in Liukin's - one of Ferrer's main inspirations - footsteps and make the Junior Olympic National Team, Senior National Team and go to the 2020 Olympics.

"I'm a little nervous [performing at NLC]," Ferrer said. "But I usually like having all the cameras and pressure on me because I just take that as more determination."

However, as long as she does her hair like she does for every meet – a side French braid into a pony tail – and eats her normal pre-competition breakfast of two fried eggs and a piece of bacon, Ferrer's nerves shouldn't get the best of her.

The homeschooled pre-teen spends about 40 hours per week training, mixing in school between practices. She says English is her favorite subject because it's easier than math and science.

In her spare time, she likes having sleepovers with her friends, going to the beach and watching gymnastics YouTube videos.

Alma Kuc

By Lauren Ely

Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Poland and the United States: Alma Kuc has seen it all.

Kuc remembers growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Specifically, she remembers being on a big basketball court in preschool with all her classmates clapping for her as she learned how to do cartwheels.

The cheers struck something inside Kuc, and she enrolled in a gymnastics class. She was the best in the class, and quickly moved to a real gym to begin her road to Level 10.

"It's fun being able to impress people and them thinking that you're the best thing ever," Kuc said. "They're really impressed about what you can do, and it's really fun and rewarding for me to have people proud of me and excited for me to perform and do things they think are impossible."

Kuc, 14, was born in Toronto, Canada, and moved to Argentina and Brazil before landing in the United States. Her extended family lives in Poland, and she takes trips every year to see them. Along the way she has learned Polish, Spanish English and some Portuguese.

Kuc now lives in Pacific Palisades, Calif., where she hopes will be her permanent residence. Kuc said it was hard moving around during her childhood to keep up with gymnastics, make friends and learn each coach's training style, but with elite gymnastics and the Olympics as her goal, the determination it took only made her stronger. She also had help from her younger brother Thomas who is a Level 7 gymnast.

This is Kuc's first year qualifying for the Nastia Liukin Cup, and while she is nervous to compete on podium and in front of cameras for the first time, she's excited for the experience and the chance to meet Liukin.

Kari Lee

By Lauren Ely

Kari Lee is a simple teenager. She likes shopping with her sisters, reading and gymnastics.

She's read both the Twilight and Hunger Games series and enjoys shopping at the Nike Outlet and Hollister with her sisters, but on most days, Lee can be found at the gym.

"I'm a boring person outside the gym," Lee said. "I'm like a nerd; I really am."

Lee, 16, lives in Peoria, Ariz., and trains at Flames Gymnastics under Attila Szentes. She comes from a family full of gymnasts. Her mother owns Flames Gymnastics, and her four siblings – Jason, Toby, Serrena and Codee – all competed at Level 10.

Unlike most gymnasts, her favorite event is beam.

"I love beam," Lee said. "It just comes easy to me."

Lee has already won three competitions this year: The IGI Chicago Style Gymnastics Meet, the Parkettes Invitational and the Arizona Grand Invitational. But the wins mean more than just any other "W." Last summer, she faced a debilitating injury when she rolled both ankles doing a whip back and thought about quitting.

"My mom never let me [quit] because she didn't want me to end the sport hating it because of an injury," Lee said. "For a while, I didn't do that skill because I got flashback memories from it, but now I just do it. I don't even think about it."

Lee is now verbally committed to the University of Arizona, where she hopes to compete as an all-around gymnast. She would like to study something in the medical field such as pharmacology or anesthesiology.

Kaytianna McMillan

By Erica Rath

Kaytianna McMillan is a high school senior from the Eugene, Ore., area. She trains at the National Academy of Artistic Gymnastics under Todd Wyatt.

At 18 years old, Kaytianna has already committed to Oregon State University. She is completely relieved that she has the pressure of choosing a college of her chest. As she should be, she is proud of reaching her goal and overwhelmed with joy. While participating in gymnastics at Oregon State, she hopes to study something in the medical field.

Her parents got her involved in gymnastics when she was little because of the energy she exuded. Since then, she has been training in the gym nearly every day.

Kaytianna's favorite event to compete in is the floor exercise. She enjoys the different aspects of tumbling combined with dance. Two years ago, Kaytianna placed first at J.O. Nationals on floor, something she calls her greatest accomplishment.

Coming from an athletic family, Kaytianna has a brother who is a triathlete. When she is not in school or at the gym, she likes hanging out with friends, going to the movies and going shipping.

Her favorite thing about gymnastics is her teammates. She loves the relationship and encouragement she gets from training with the other members of her gym. She also enjoys her coaches for whom, she says, she is very grateful.

Lauren Ramirez

By Erica Rath

Lauren Ramirez is 14 years old and from Chandler, Ariz. She trains at Gold Medal Gymnastics in the same town under coaches Amanda Borden, Craig Keaty and Kristin Fanning.

Lauren started gymnastics eight years ago when her mom wanted her to get involved with something. She chose gymnastics, and Lauren fell in love with the sport.

Right now, Lauren's focus in on gymnastics. She loves the competition of other gymnasts and competing in different things. Her favorite event to perform is the floor exercise because she says it just comes easier to her.

At this point in her career, Lauren says her biggest accomplishment is qualifying for the Nastia Liukin Cup. She has overcome some injuries in her career to get to where she is now, including a fractured hip. Outside of qualifying for the NLC, Lauren also placed first in vault in the 2011 Level 9 Western Championships.

Lauren enjoys studying language arts at her charter school where she attends daily with other gymnasts. The group of them carpool to the gym after school, too, so she has the support system any competitive athlete needs to succeed. Once she graduates, Lauren want to be a gymnastic coach so she can remain in the world of competitive gymnastics.

Aja Sims

By Erica Rath

Aja Sims is a high school senior from Orlando, Fla. She competes for Brandy Johnson's Global Gymnastics in her hometown. Brandy Johnson-Scharpf is an Olympian, who competed in the 1988 Olympic Games. She also is coached by Kelly Pitzen.

Aja has already committed to the University of Alabama to compete collegiately in arguably the best gymnastics conference in the country, the Southeastern Conference. She attends public school and leaves early to put hours in at the gym. She has found that her classmates support her and accept her schedule because they see the hard work she has put in. Earning a college scholarship is the highest goal she has reached this far in her career.

The Nastia Liukin Cup means a lot to Aja because she sees Liukin as a tremendous role model. She describes her as having power and grace and these are things she hopes to can translate in her performance at the Cup.

The uneven bars are Aja's favorite event because of the challenge it puts in front of her.

While at University of Alabama, Aja hopes to study kinesiology, or something in the health field in order to stay in the sports realm. Conveniently, her favorite subject in school is science, which will help her in her future aspirations.

Since Aja is an only child, she enjoys spending time with friends. When she isn't training or at school, she enjoys going shopping and watching movies.

Log in