Friday, September 17, 2010

Alicia Sacramone

For almost a decade Alicia Sacramone has been a leading name in the world of gymnastics and an outstanding role model for young women and girls. This elite medalist exhibited artistic leanings at the age of five when she began to study dance. After three years she switched to artistic gymnastics, an elegant and demanding sport in which a gymnast performs 30-90 minute choreographed routines on a number of different apparatuses. This is the field that would lead her to Olympian victory.

Trained by a duo of professional Romanian gymnasts named Mihai and Silvia Brestyan, Sacramone's winning career began in 2002 with her placement at the U.S Classic in the junior division of the vaulting competition. She went on to place 7th at the National Championships for the balance beam that same year. Dedicating herself to her craft, Alicia trained hard and went on to win a bronze medal at the U.S Nationals in 2003. This win allowed her to join the National gymnastics team for the U.S. This same year she placed in both the floor exercise and vault at the Massilia Cup, an International competition held in France.  

These wins pushed Sacramone's career forward immensely, as did her continued improvement in the sport. As part of the US team, she won the gold metal in the vault at the 2004 Pacific Alliance Championships. The media began to pay attention to the newcomer after this gold medal, and it looked like Alicia might go to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, but Olympian gold was not in her cards just yet. A serious back injury and a flawed performance in the 2004 U.S Nationals prevented her going to Greece that year. This upset did not thwart her success, however. That same year Alicia placed first in the vault exercise at the British hosted World Cup Finals. She also won titles for vault and floor exercises at the Pan American competitions in 2004.     

Alicia spent 2005 and 2006 winning several titles and medals for her U.S team. She won gold in Australia for the American team at the 2005 World Championships, and she retained her 2004 titles at every national competition that year. In 2006 Sacramone joined Brown University's team when she enrolled at the college. As a member of the Brown Bears she won every event at the Ivy League Classic that year and broke several of the University's records. She also qualified for the NCAA National Championships, but unfortunately she did not make it to the second round for the competition.

2007 was an eventful year for Alicia when she officially entered the professional gymnastics arena. This move was under the advice of her coaches, who thought she should spend all of her energy preparing for the 2008 Olympics that would be held in Beijing, China.  Alicia still coached as a volunteer for the Brown team during this time, however, and was pursuing her degree in Sociology at the school. She took time off from academics when, in July of 2008, she was finally accepted into the U.S Olympic team headed to Beijing.

The 2008 summer Olympics were a bittersweet experience for Alicia. She fell during both of her performances and was subject to point deductions. The U.S team won the silver medal for the Bejing Olympics, but Alicia took this as a failure and blamed herself for the team missing the gold medal. Negative media attention did not help, either, pointing fingers at Sacramone as the downfall for the team. Experts were quick to come to her defense, and so were her teammates, however. Most analysts believed that Alicia's point deductions could not have been the team's weak point. Even so, Sacramone officially retired from the professional gymnastic ranks in early 2009. This was a short lived retirement, luckily. Later that same year Alicia returned to her training and competitions after recovering from shoulder surgery. Many fans were elated to hear the news.

Alicia made a big come-back in 2010 at Rotterdam Holland, earning her first gold medal on the vault at the World Championship in October. Once again on the U.S national team, Sacramone is only the second American woman to ever win the gold for this event.

While Alicia has been a household name for gymnastics for many years, she also has had time for extra activities in her busy personal life. Not only did she attend an Ivy League university during her college athletic career, she was also a Covergirl spokesmodel, along with two of her U.S teammates in 2008. She also endorsed Gatorade in 2009, appearing in commercials for the well-known sports drink. She was a spokeswoman for Team24Fitness, and a designer for the men's clothing line, Tank Farm, for a brief period, too.

Many sports publications have featured Alicia in articles and interviews, not only for her many titles and metals, but also for her winning attitude and very down-to-earth personality. Some personal tidbits about the young sports figure has become public knowledge as a result. Alicia is originally from Massachusetts, loves dogs, and has a hairdresser for a mom. While she is no longer studying at Brown, the gymnast has indicated plans to go back to school soon, possibly at one of Boston's many prestigious institutions. 

Sacramone has been popular as a role model for young women, and she is often interviewed for major women's  magazines such as “Cosmopolitan” and  “Women's Health”. Being a world-class athlete, her fitness advice is highly respected. Her take on healthy eating is to maintain a balanced diet. In her interview in “Women's Health” she reveals that she does not restrict herself when it comes to nutrition. With today's image-conscious attitudes, this type of philosophy from a female role model can go a long way in helping girls avoid eating disorders and poor body image.

Alicia's tenacious return to gymnastics after her disappointing Olympic run is a testament to her courage and strength of character. She did not give up the sport she loved or let setbacks destroy her self confidence. She has continued to display class and maturity beyond her age. Young women can look up to this elite gymnast as someone to emulate for her commitment to health, education, and personal excellence.