Bridget Sloan became the first American to win a U.S. national title, a world title and an NCAA title in the all-around, when she won the all-around at the 2013 NCAA Championships this April. Sloan helped the University of Florida to its first ever team title and she grabbed the balance beam title, too.
When asked how it feels to be the first gymnast to win a U.S., World and NCAA title, Sloan said, "It is pretty strange to think that I have come so far, but it truly is an incredible accomplishment and I can't thank my team and coaches enough. It is crazy for me to think that I am the only one."
For her efforts, Sloan received gymnastics' Honda Award, presented by the Collegiate Women's Sports Awards and given annually to the top women athletes in 12 NCAA-sanctioned sports. With this honor, Sloan becomes a finalist for the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year and the 2013 Honda Cup. She was chosen for the Honda Sports Award by a vote among the United States Elite Coaches Association. Finalists included Vanessa Zamarripa (University of California – Los Angeles), Rheagan Courville (Louisiana State University), and Alina Weinstein (University of Illinois).
The Collegiate Women Sports Awards has honored the nation's top NCAA women athletes for 37 years, recognizing superior athletic skills, leadership, academic excellence and eagerness to participate in community service. Since commencing its sponsorship in 1986, Honda has provided more than $2.5 million in institutional grants to the universities of the award winners and nominees to support women's athletics programs. Previous Honda Cup winners include Brittney Griner, Ann Meyers Drysdale, Lisa Fernandez, Misty May-Treanor, Maya Moore, and Candace Parker.
"I am so honored to receive the Honda Award. This whole season has been one highlight after another, and I feel so fortunate to be a part of the collegiate experience. I am happy to share this award with my teammates, coaches and the Gator fans as their support is so important," said Sloan.
Sloan made the transition from elite gymnastics to collegiate gymnastics with ease. She talked about her team winning the NCAA title and said, "It's an incredible accomplishment and it feels awesome. We wanted to leave here (NCAA Championships) with no regrets – just leave everything on the floor and we did. I don't think you can compare it to a National Championships or World Championships or Olympic Games, but this feels pretty good."
After her return to Pittsboro after the end of the semester, Sloan took a few minutes to chat with USA Gymnastics.
USA Gymnastics: How did you decide to keep your eligibility and compete in collegiate gymnastics?
Bridget: For me holding on to my eligibility was a very good decision. I loved my freshman year at the University of Florida. Holding on to eligibility is a personal choice. Each gymnast needs to think through options and realize there is life after elite gymnastics. The NCAA gymnastics' world is completely different from the elite world. For me being a part of a team that I trained with all of the time was important.
USA Gymnastics: How is school going and how was your adjustment as a freshman student athlete?
Bridget: School is great, but there was definitely an adjustment. It was a good adjustment; I was just another student athlete -- juggling classes, tutoring, training and a social life.
USA Gymnastics: What is the difference between elite level competition and NCAA competition?
Bridget: I don't think you could truly compare elite and college simply because they are so different. I mean when you are competing on the world stage it is a much different mind set than when you are competing for the NCAA title. They are both great experiences and coming from elite I have been able to take what I have learned and incorporate it into competing at the college level.
USA Gymnastics: Can you talk about the challenge of competing weekly in NCAA competition? How did your body hold up?
Bridget: It was definitely a change competing every weekend instead of just a couple times a year. Honestly my body held up a lot better than expected. I wasn't exactly sure how I would adjust to competing every weekend but it was a lot of fun and my body never felt better.
USA Gymnastics: How do you decide how much difficulty to include in your collegiate routines?
Bridget: That was a tricky combination, because you do want big skills, but at the same time you want skills you will hit every time. It really came down to the skills I felt comfortable doing and just building confidence on any skill I may have been a little nervous about. Of course there are always risks in gymnastics no matter what level you are, but in college I was able to do big skills and still keep the consistency up.
USA Gymnastics: What was the preseason conditioning like at the University of Florida and how did it compare to your conditioning at your home gym of Sharp's Gymnastics.
Bridget: The preseason conditioning was very different than what I am used too. It consisted of circuits and cardio and it really helped prepare me for season.
USA Gymnastics: What are your goals for next year and beyond?
Bridget: My goals are to stay healthy and help my team out as much as possible. Since I have now declared my major, I will start taking specific classes for broadcasting and advertising, which I am very excited about. Keeping good grades has always been very important to me along with my parents, and keeping my grades up will be something I intend to do my entire college career.