At the tender age of 20, 2011 World Championships gold medalist Sabrina Vega announced via Instagram today that she has committed to the University of Georgia.
While most NCAA commitments happen around the age of 14 or 15 and some girls commit as early as 12, Vega – who has competed as an elite gymnast in the United States since 2009 – had no desire to think about college when she was that young. Her focus was on elite and nothing else, and even when she didn’t reach her dream of going to the Olympic Games in 2012, she kept on going, fighting through injury after injury and even changing gyms when she felt her longtime coaches at Dynamic Gymnastics didn’t believe in her enough.
Since arriving at GAGE to train with Al Fong and Armine Barutyan shortly after the Olympic Trials in 2012, Vega has been working incredibly hard through multiple injuries and surgeries to get back into elite shape. She returned to elite competition at the Secret U.S. Classic this summer, her first time competing in over three years. While she was the same old Sabrina with her beautiful movement and clean execution on beam and floor, her best events, she unfortunately didn’t have the difficulty to contend. This was exacerbated by a fall on floor, leaving her several points behind the qualification score necessary for nationals, though it didn’t seem to faze her. She had a blast back on the national elite stage, and was clearly in her element performing again for the thousands of people in the stands.
In the past, Vega said she wasn’t really sold on NCAA competition and would rather stay elite, but was keeping her options open and not going pro in case she changed her mind in the future. As badly as she wanted the Olympics to happen, it became clear with her comeback this summer that it wasn’t in the cards. And so with that came the question “what’s next?”
It’s a good thing she opted to not go pro, because even at her age – she’ll be 21 in her freshman season if she starts competing in January and 22 if she begins in the 2016-2017 season – collegiate gymnastics was still an option, as athletes training for the Olympics are given special accommodations and don’t have to follow the one-year grace period rules between high school and college to remain eligible.
As an NCAA gymnast, Vega should truly excel. Her strengths have always been performance value, artistry, technical perfection, and consistency, making her the perfect gymnast for any program. Georgia has had their share of struggles in recent years, still trying to find their footing first after the retirement of Suzanne Yoculan and then undergoing another coaching change just three years later as Jay Clark was asked to resign. Their recruits are mostly level 10s, with former top elites opting instead for Florida and UCLA in recent years. Vega is their most recognizable name until Emily Schild, Marissa Oakley, and the recent elite-retiree Ashley Foss come in 2017-2018, and she could help to breathe life back into the program as they continue to rebuild.
We’re so excited for Vega to begin this next chapter of her career. While it’s unclear whether she’ll begin attending the University of Georgia for the upcoming 2016 season or will hold off another year, she’s going to have huge success there and we can’t wait to see her dominate.
Article by Lauren Hopkins