12-year-old Deanne Soza burst onto the junior scene last season with huge potential and one of the most gorgeous beam routines in the country.
She won the 2013 American Classic beam title and qualified to the P&G Championships at just eleven years old, one of the youngest to compete at the XL Center in Hartford. Though she had a very strong debut, a broken foot sustained at the ranch earlier in the year ultimately led to a 26th place finish.
“She was out for almost four months [in 2013],” according to coach Dan Coleman, who trains Deanne alongside his wife Jana. “We only had two months to get ready to qualify at the American Classic. She did okay overall, but trying to get her confidence back after being injured was really hard. We kind of threw her to the wolves for Classics and Championships. If she hadn’t been injured and her training was on track, she would have had a much better result.”
Deanne and her coaches have spent the last year working hard on her consistency and confidence in addition to raising her difficulty by almost two full points, not easy at such a young age. She also had a slight setback this past March, when a burst cyst in her wrist derailed her from contending for a spot on the team that traveled to Jesolo, Italy.
Despite everything that’s happened, she came back stronger than ever this summer with an exceptionally clean and daring performance at the Secret U.S. Classic. Earning a 56.45, she finished less than a point behind all-around champion Jordan Chiles, tying Norah Flatley for the bronze medal and becoming the youngest medal-winner at the event since Lexie Priessman earned bronze in 2009.
National team coordinator Martha Karolyi awards Deanne with her all-around medal
“I wasn’t surprised to see her at the top of the pack at Classics,” says Dan. “We had to water down the routines a little [due to her wrist injury] but we’re very happy with where she is and we’re hoping she keeps it up for Championships.”
What was most remarkable about Deanne is not how strong she was in her performance, but how beautifully she performed challenging and unique skills, especially on bars. She is one of only two gymnasts in the U.S. (and possibly in the world) competing an Ezhova, and is the only U.S. gymnast currently competing an inbar shoot transition.
On beam, she’s equally remarkable, looking fluid in all movements, especially in her gorgeous switch leap to Onodi. The natural ease with which she competes high-difficulty elements is something you don’t find in most senior athletes, and is a mark of someone with immense potential as she grows in her experience.
It’s no wonder her coaches decided to try the elite route with her. Though the decision to train at such a high level of gymnastics is never an easy one, with Deanne “the elite path was an easy choice,” according to coach Jana Coleman.
“She started out with us when she was three,” recalls coach Jana Coleman. “From the very beginning, she was very focused, didn’t say a word during practice, had a desire for perfection, was easy to coach, progressed quickly on skills, picked things up extremely fast…she also has great parents, a very strong support system…it was all there. Some girls have potential but no mindset, some have potential but no desire, but Deanne is the whole package.”
Dan agrees, and thinks her talent and ability will lead to great things in her future. She has a long wait before she is eligible for the Olympic Games (she will become a senior in 2017, born nine months too late to qualify for Rio) but they have a plan in place to put her on the right track for 2010.
“We want to get her prepared so as soon as she turns senior, she can go to World Championships and stand out on the international stage. The goal is for her to take on the world as a first year senior, and build her up from there.”
Deanne is already at a skill level that rivals most U.S. seniors, so even slight, steady progress over the next three years will make her a huge threat internationally and we can’t wait to see her shine.
We spoke to Deanne as she prepared for next week’s P&G Championships to see how her training is going, what she’s been working on, and what her goals are for Championships and beyond.
How did you feel about your performance at the Secret U.S. Classic?
I felt really good! I was proud of myself and I felt really confident. I think it was my best meet!
What do you think was best for you? What was your favorite thing about the meet?
Vault and bars were my best events. This was my first time competing the double on vault and I think it went pretty well. I’m proud of that! My favorite moment was getting to compete in front of the best gymnasts in the world…I had a lot of fun doing that.
What have you been working on the most since Classics?
Definitely my consistency on beam, and overall, building confidence.
Over the past year, what have you been most focused on? Have you added any big upgrades in addition to the DTY?
Consistency and confidence again. I’ve done some big upgrades on bars, like the straddleback half instead of my pak salto.
What events do you think you’re best at?
It really depends on the day!
When did you realize that you wanted to do elite gymnastics?
I always wanted to do elite. I knew I could handle it and knew it was a path I would take.
What are your goals for Championships? How about future goals?
For Championships, I want to stay in the top five and make the national team. For the future, I do have the Olympics in mind. I can’t compete until the 2020 Games but I really want to make that Olympic team.
You already have a lot of great and unique skills on bars. Do you have a dream skill there?
I’m not sure…eventually we want to upgrade all of my toe-on skills to inbars.
Is there anyone you compete with that you find to be an inspiration?
I train with most of them at the ranch, so they’re all my friends and we all inspire each other.
Deanne will contend for a junior title and a national team spot at the 2014 P&G Championships next weekend at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Penn. We wish her and her coaches the best of luck in their training and at the meet!
Article by Lauren Hopkins
Thank you to Deanne Soza, and coaches Dan and Jana Coleman!
Photos are property of Dan and Jana Coleman/Arete Gymnastics