Golden at the World Games

Michael Rodrigues and Kristin Allen earned the first gold medal for USA Acrobatic Gymnastics at the recent 2009 World Games, which are held once every four years and considered the Olympic Games for acrobatic gymnastics. The duo also won the gold medal at the World Cup which was held during Freedom Cup in July. We caught up with Michael and Kristin to ask about their experience, just before they departed for Dallas and the 2009 Visa Championships.


Michael Rodrigues

How long have you done acro and how did you get involved with the sport?
I have been competing in Acro since 1996, and have been competing at the Elite level since 2002. I got involved with the sport through a local gymnastics club. I was taking weekly boy's artistic classes and loving it. However, I was already beginning to be a taller person and I was definitely not shaped to be an artistic gymnast. I was long limbed and I could not hold up my growing body to save my life. It just so happened that there was an Acro team that trained at the gym where I took classes, and one day I asked my instructor if that was a class that I could try. He said that it was the Acro team and that he would introduce me to the coach. I met the coach and she invited me to try it out. From that day forward I was in love with Acro and have never left.

How long have you and Kristin been partners and how did you become partners?
Kristin and I have been partners since August of 2007, so we are just about to our two year mark.

What makes you two so successful as partners in Acrobatic Gymnastics?
I think what makes us successful as partners in Acrobatic Gymnastics is our willingness to work hard on our own as well as to work hard together. We each have our own individual "jobs" to do, but we also have to be able to trust and rely on the other person. We also both have similar goals and similar work ethics in the gym.

What's the best part of acro and what is the most challenging part?
The best part of Acro is performing skills that seem impossible. I also enjoy the fact that in Acrobatic Gymnastics there is always something new to learn and there are endless possibilities for skills.

List your club, coach, hometown and age?
I train at West Coast Training Center in Livermore, Calif. My coach is Marie Annonson. My hometown is Livermore, Calif. and I'm 26 years old.

I know the World Games is like the Olympic Games for acro since it takes place only once every four years and is the largest and most prestigious event for your sport. How did it feel to win the U.S. first gold medal in acro gymnastics at the World Games?
To win the gold was one of the greatest moments in my Acro career. It was such an overwhelming rush of emotions when the final score of the meet came up and we were ranked first. I felt a wave of excitement, relief, pride, joy, happiness and more than that I can't really put into words. It felt like all my years of training and competing rushed through me to remind me of what it took to get there, and in that moment I was lucky enough to experience the realization of my dreams. It was a great feeling!

Which routine were you most pleased with at the World Games?
I was very pleased with all of our routines at the World Games. Each one was a small victory for us as we worked our way through the meet. If I had to choose one to be the most pleased with, it would have to be Combined (our Finals routine) because it was the last of the three for the day and we performed it well. We left nothing to regret when we walked off of the mat and in the end it earned us the gold medal!

What was the best moment of that competition?
The best moment of the competition would have to be stepping up onto the awards stand in first place and getting to hear our National Anthem played as our flag was raised.

Who choreographed your combined routine?
Our combined routine was choreographed by the famous Alex da Silva whose routines can often be seen on the TV show So You Think You Can Dance.

I understand you have a silver and bronze medal from World Championships competition, and you came out of retirement to partner with Kristin and go for the gold. Can you tell me your motivation and was the hard work worth it?
After winning my first World Championship medal I felt that I wasn't really done and that I still had a place on the World stage of Acrobatic Gymnastics. I felt that I still had more to accomplish and I had seen my dream grow from just wanting to win a medal at a World Championships to wanting that medal to be Golden. In Kristin I saw the desire, the talent, and the work ethic that I thought would make it to the top. Our coaches and key members of the USA Acro community must have also seen that in me and encouraged us to try and form a partnership. My desire to continue competing, and the support of those around me to do so, was really all the motivation I needed to get back to training. I owe a huge thanks to all of the people involved in making our partnership a reality. Was all of the hard work worth it? Definitely.

Tell me your typical daily schedules.
My typical daily schedule is:6:30 a.m.-Wake up; 7:10-8:00 a.m.-Commute to work; 8:00 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.-Work; 4:30-5:20 p.m.-Commute to the gym; 5:20-8:30 p.m.- Train.

I know you work and train so can you tell me how you are able to balance the two.
I am very lucky to have both an understanding coach and an accommodating employer. It is difficult to manage a 40 hour work week and an Elite training schedule, but we make it work. My employer allows me to take a 30 minute lunch, instead of an hour, so that I can leave work at 4:30 p.m. That helps me get to the gym by 5:20 p.m., which is late since practice starts at 5:00 p.m., but my coach understands and so does Kristin, so I come in late and warm up quickly. My employer is also very supportive in my competitive efforts and allows me to attend competitions even though I don't have enough paid time off to cover all of the days I miss. (Michael works as a Purchasing Agent for Veterinary Service, Inc., a distributor of animal health products.)

Who makes your competitive attire?
Kristin's mother has designed and sewn all of our competitive attire.

What do you like to do when you are not working, doing home school or training?
In my free time I enjoy going to the movies and spending time with my friends and family.

Tell me about your family?
Mom and Dad are Phyllis and Antonio Rodrigues. Twin Brother - Anthony Michael Rodrigues (yes, my middle name is Anthony) - We do not look alike at all, but I think we share a lot of the same mannerisms and we have a similar sense of humor.

My family is great. They always support me and are very understanding of the time commitment that the sport requires. They are definitely my number one fans and I know they are proud of me. I am very thankful for them and all that they sacrifice for me.

Kristin Allen

How long have you done acro and how did you get involved with the sport?
I've been doing acro for eight years now. My best friend did acro; I would often go to her practices. I tried out and fell in love with the sport. I've been doing it ever since!

Michael and Kristin winning the silver medal at the 2008 World Championships

How long have you two been partners and how did you become partners?
Michael had retired for a year, but still stayed involved with the sport through program committee. He had decided to move to the town where I was training. When I needed a new partner, he decided to come out of retirement to be with me. Michael and I have now been partners for two very exciting years!

What makes you two so successful as partners in Acrobatic Gymnastics?
Michael and I work extremely well together. We value and appreciate what makes each of us unique, and use those things to our advantage. We each have very different strengths, but we have the same drive, the same goal, and the same passion. We love what we do.

What’s the best part of acro and what is the most challenging part of acro?
For me, the best part of acro is competition. I love love love to compete! The adrenaline, the focus, and the hope that we can reach past the edge of the floor and touch the audience with the emotion in our performance. My hope is that the judges and audience won't feel like they've watched just another routine, they'll feel like they've had an unforgettable experience.

List your club, coach, hometown and age?
I’m 17 years old and I train at West Coast Training Center. My coach is Marie Annonson.

I know the World Games is like the Olympic Games for acro since it takes place only once every four years and is the largest and most prestigious event for your sport. How did it feel to win the U.S. first gold medal in acro gymnastics at the World Games?
World Games was such an incredible experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life. Knowing that we've made an impact for the sport that we adore and devote so much of our lives to is such a cool feeling.

Which routine were you most pleased with at the World Games?
Each routine we competed I was happy with, but, of course, combined is our final routine, the one that determines the outcome, so I am most pleased with that routine, and that Michael and I were able to do what we needed to do at the right time. That routine was such a blast to compete!

What was the best moment of that competition?
The best moment was finding out that we'd won. We were shocked and thrilled and emotional and shaking and crying and hugging and laughing and so happy. I'll always remember it.

Who choreographed your combined routine?
Our combined routine was done by an amazing Latin choreographer who choreographed for the show So You Think You Can Dance. His name is Alex da Silva.

I hear you have a nickname internationally … can you tell me what it is and why you are named this?
My nickname is "The Ballerina." Apparently this is because I'm known for my dance and my emotional performances.

Can you tell us about home school, what grade you are in and how you fit in training.
I do independent study, so I go to school once a week to meet with my teacher and get my work for the next week. I absolutely love it, and it makes it easier to travel and train. However, I also take two classes in the morning at my local high school so that I get up and get my day started, and so that I'm not completely void of a social life.

Who makes your competitive attire?
My mom designs and sews our competition leotards.

What do you like to do when you are not working, doing homeschool or training?
Art and dance and anything creative are a huge part of my life. I always have projects going, and I am never bored!

Tell me about your family?
I have cool parents. My dad runs marathons and is really into psychology and my mom is an artist and super creative. My little brother is a phenomenal dancer and attends a prestigious dance school in Washington D.C. He is an inspiration, and with his great sense of humor he makes my life brighter in every way.