Wieber enjoys 'being a normal college student' at UCLA
posted on 11/11/2013

© John Cheng

By Scott Bregman

Jordyn Wieber is just like every other college freshman – if all other college freshmen had World and Olympic gold medals listed under accomplishments on their applications.

"I do [get recognized]. Quite a bit," Wieber laughs. Though she's quick to add, "I mean, a few people stop me here-and-there, but not too many. It's usually in the dining hall. People will stop me and ask for pictures."

The DeWitt, Mich., native recently moved across the country from everything she has ever known – her family, her gym, Gedderts' Twistars, and longtime coaches John and Kathryn Geddert – to start her college education at the University of California – Los Angeles.

"I made a last minute decision – I didn't decide to go to college until about August," Wieber said. "I wanted to focus on training, staying in shape and getting college started."

For the 18-year-old Olympic champion, moving away to college has meant working with a different coach for the first time in her life.

"I was with John for 14 or 15 years in my gymnastics career, so it's definitely a big change," said Wieber. "I still keep in touch with John, and every time I go home, I stop in and visit and workout there a couple of days. We still have a really good relationship, which was what I always wanted. I still get feedback from him sometimes."

She admits that Geddert was "a little bit bummed" not to have her at his gym every day but ultimately supported the decision.

Now, she's being coached by UCLA associate head coach Chris Waller, a 1992 Olympian who coached Mohini Bhardwaj to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens .

"Working with Chris has been really great, too," Wieber said. "He's an amazing coach. He does a great job with this team and also coaching me. It's been good so far."

In addition to her training, Wieber is the UCLA women's gymnastics team manager.

"Basically, I'm a member of the team but I can't compete," Wieber explained. "I'm there to give them a pep talk, move a mat or whatever they need. I train before the team, so they're coming in as I'm working out. Hopefully, my hard work and dedication can help inspire them."

Outside the gym, Wieber admits the transition to college has been tricky, "It's definitely a different experience. It's a lot busier than I thought it would be."

She's currently taking mostly required classes, including sociology with 2008 Olympic silver medalist and UCLA redshirt junior Samantha Peszek, and says she hopes to major in psychology.

Like any college student, she enjoys going to football games and hanging out with her friends from the UCLA gymnastics team.

"My favorite part of college life has been being part of a team – there's about 16 other girls, so it's really awesome to have this immediate family just coming here from another state across the country," Wieber said. "It's really nice to have those automatic teammates, best friends, and practically sisters."

Wieber lives with Canadian standout Peng Peng Lee, who missed competing at the 2012 Olympics due to a knee injury but served as honorary team captain.

"It's really awesome to be roommates with Peng because we're both kind of in the same situation," said Wieber. "We both want to shoot for the 2016 Olympics. We have similar personalities and goals."

Although Rio is firmly in her sights, Wieber has yet to decide exactly which path on the road to Rio she will take.

"At this point, I don't have exact plans set yet," she said. "I'm still just taking it one step at a time and playing it by ear."

Wieber went on to say that she would decide whether or not she wants to continue to train in California or return home to Michigan, "I just don't know yet."

"I'm excited to – within the next year or so – get back to training camp and hopefully compete again," she added.

The two-time U.S. all-around champion returned to serious training at the beginning of the year. Focusing originally on basics and getting back into peak physical condition, Wieber now says she's working on a combination of her old skills, learning new elements and "a lot of conditioning." She told USA Gymnastics she plans to continue use the floor routine she had choreographed by Dominic Zito in April, but didn't rule out a possible future collaboration with UCLA head coach and choreographer Valorie Kondos Field.

Wieber also said she watched her Olympic teammates Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney compete at the 2013 World Championships and found their success inspirational.

"[Their performance] definitely got me excited to be back training. I'm so proud of all the medals they won," Wieber said. "They came back to training right after the Olympics and worked so hard, so that was amazing."

But Wieber isn't satisfied with just cheering her teammates on from home.

"My ultimate goal is definitely to go the 2016 Olympics," said Wieber.


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