If gymnastics is one of your favorite sports to watch during the summer Olympics, you won’t want to miss a gymnastics event coming to Augusta this week. (Yes, the winter Olympics just wrapped up, but it’s hard not to look forward to what’s in store for summer 2020!)
The Elevate the Stage gymnastics meet is bringing together four women’s college teams — The University of Georgia, the University of Nebraska, the University of Illinois and Stanford University — at 7:30 p.m. March 2 at the James Brown Arena.
So it’s not an Olympic event, but at least one of the gymnasts who’s going to be competing there came very close to making it into the 2012 Olympics in London, and she even won gold on the American team at the World Championships in 2011 alongside eventual gold-winning Olympians Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman.
The young woman who competed alongside the eventual Olympians and made it to the Olympic Trials herself is Sabrina Vega, 22, who is a sophomore at the University of Georgia. She finished in 10th place at the Trials.
Originally from New York, Vega started in gymnastics when she was 4 years old. As an all-round gymnast who spent five years as a USA National Team member, she took a winding path to get to school in Georgia.
“I was training for the Olympics in 2012,” she said. “I made it to the Olympic Trials, and then I moved to Kansas City to try again for the 2016 Olympics. But I had some major injuries that set me back from reaching those goals, and it was like a transition period for me in 2016, trying to decide what to do next with the sport. And Georgia gave me the opportunity to come on a scholarship. It was really a last-minute decision because I had put off school for quite some time to train for the Olympics, so it was a blessing in disguise.”
Vega is working hard on her body and her mind — she is double majoring in biology and psychology. Her eventual goal is to make it to medical school and become an orthopedic. She explained her choice on including psychology.
“I want to go into sports orthopedics, so I always think that in the medical field for orthopedics and dealing with athletes, there is a lot of psychological aspect to rehabbing and the sport itself. It’s all a mental game,” Vega said. “So I figured having that psychology background can help me in the long run.”
She’s enjoying her last years in gymnastics, and she says she’s past working toward making it to the Olympics. She is proud of having made it to the Olympic Trials, because not many athletes can say they did that.
“Honestly, I’m taking these next two years at college to really enjoy the sport and looking toward the next chapter in life, so I will be watching the next Olympics, but that’s not my goal.”
Vega and the other women will be kicking off a long weekend of gymnastics at Elevate the Stage — after the college teams compete on March 2, more than 1,000 youth gymnasts will compete through March 4. Tickets can be purchased online or in person for the college meet, but daily and weekend passes for the club meet on March 3 and 4 are available at the door only.
Until now, Elevate the Stage had been held only in Birmingham, Ala., for the past three years as a meet between the University of Alabama and Auburn University. This year, it’s happening in six cities across the U.S.
The meet takes place on podiums, which historically have been used only for the SEC and NCAA Championships. Competing on podiums gives more bounce and spring for the gymnasts, and it gives the teams an advantage heading into post-season competition. It’s also more visually appealing for the audience.
The 10-time national champions Georgia Gymdogs will play neutral site host to the other three, out-of-conference opponents. As of Feb. 23, the NCAA ranked all four teams coming to Augusta in the top 30, out of 82 teams: Nebraska came in at No. 14; Georgia was right behind at No. 15; Stanford was ranked at No. 22; and Illinois came in at No. 28.
Elevate the Stage
James Brown Arena
7:30 p.m. March 2