Luisa Blanco (NCAA Alabama, previously USA) begins representing Colombia in Elite

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MaryClare

Defender
Will train with Suni over the summer!

I’m interested to hear everyone’s thoughts about why the sudden explosion in NCAA gymnasts utilising dual citizenship to compete elite

 
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Pity she missed Pan Ams and the chance to try and qualify for worlds this year.

Curious about her statement regarding being discouraged from representing Colombia previously. Who was discouraging her and why?

I wonder if any other gyms were under consideration. She was at WOGA. I see the connections, but Midwest is still an unexpected choice, imo.
 
I think that many duel nation NCAA gymnasts have woken up to the possibility that they could get to an Olympics or Worlds with only a little upgrading representing another country where qualification is easier. I think that the changes in NCAA rules to allow athletes to earn an income and pay for elite training has opened many doors that seemed closed under the old US, Marta-style, elite regime. The previous system seemed to discourage NCAA by writing it off as watered down gymnastics for the retired. Also the fact that gymnasts competing into their late 20s and 30s has encouraged more to keep training in contrast to earlier times (remembers NBC writing off Nastia in 2008 as “too old” at 19).
 
There was also always a “new hotness” coming up to replace you but pacing feels very different these days. It used to be the new 16 year old phenom getting the medals but that seems to be the rare thing now. Maybe because athletes/coaches are seeing they could have a longer career than 3 or 4 years and so are not going out balls to the wall from the start?
 
The success of NCAA women (Finnegan, Carey, Chiles, etc) shows that they can also succeed in elite career.

Also, execution increasingly becomes more important than difficulty in modern elite gymnastics. Even a clean Yurchenko 1.5 now is very competitive for most teams. Performance and choreography on floor become something that can be highly rewarded in elite stage. On beam, rhythm and artistry are so emphasized in elite. A beam that has frequent pauses and adjustments can score a low 7 in execution. The only thing that NCAA doesn’t translate well is bars.

In the past, many gymnasts depended on dieting (to stay thin) or other traditional training methods to keep competitive. Now, the training shifts more to conditioning. They tend to stay competitive in the long run.
 
The old phenomenon depends on the light weight / flexibility before growth spurt. For example, some gymnasts rely on light weight to generate sufficient twist in DTY / Amanar even without good techniques. They have to relearn the skills once they need to adjust to the new body.
 
Probably the accusation that she will take away opportunity of gymnasts who lived and trained in Colombia, and helped the team to secure a spot in Pan American Games.
 
It looks to me like multiple factors all happening at once. Basically, all the things everyone has listed have just made it easier and more obvious that gymnasts can combine elite and NCAA. There’s not even a question now. The top programmes understand that they’re going to have to not only allow but do everything they can to facilitate gymnasts doing both in order to stay competitive, and it’s not only US athletes who are able to take advantage of that.

It’s possible none of the factors would’ve been enough on their own, but together, they’ve changed the landscape.
 
Possibly that yes.

Even if gymnasts are transferring to countries which don’t really have competitive athletes of their own it still feels a bit uncomfortable with them competing for a limited number of spots at the Olympics.

I think Paris would be tough for Blanco at this point (though depending on who qualifies at Worlds the Pan Am Games spot could be wide open), but there will be a number of NCAA gymnasts competing for spots at Worlds, plus at least a couple of other gymnasts born and raised in the USA competing for other countries, then there’s Kaylia Nemour, it’s possible quite a significant chunk of the qualifiers from non-traditional countries will never have lived or trained there.

And it is definitely possible switching countries could become more popular in future now people are showing it can be done, and the next Olympics being in the US could act as extra motivation.
 
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After thinking a bit, I am a little uncomfortable if the “ringer” athletes get a solo spot without a significant connection to the country unless that country wasn’t likely to have gotten a spot without the transfer athlete. Like if Simone switched to Belize and got a spot–no one was going to get a spot from Belize so it isn’t as weird. If they help a team to a better finish, I think I am cool with that. Like if Luisa had competed at Pan Ams and Colombia had gotten into the medals…yeah, turns out I am fine with that. If they swoop in and grab the single spot Colombia was going to get with whoever their best gymnast is…that’s less cool.

But I am not the arbiter of what is allowed and if the local athletes are against the ringer, their voices are more important.
 
I don’t think American athletes competing for other countries is very new at all. Houry Gebeshian competed for Armenia for years. Anapaula Gutierrez who is at Stanford now was on the Mexican national team. Tienna Nguyen competed for Vietnam. Ava Verdeflor competed for the Philippines. All of these gymnasts grew up in the US AFAIK. I guess what’s new is that now gymnasts who are higher level (i.e., former US elites) like Blanco, Barros, Finnegan, and Malabuyo are doing it.

By the way, the article mentioned World Cups. Maybe she’ll try to qualify through the apparatus route? With a well constructed beam (or floor?) routine she could potentially do well.
 
As well as the ones you list, there are gymnasts who were elite in the US who’ve done it too. Shavahn Church went to GB in 2005, and Lizzy LeDuc in 2015. The change is more in the age gymnasts are doing it at, I think.
 
Going back to 1996 era, wasn’t Eileen Diaz a US gymnast who then switched over to Puerto Rico? She was born in Puerto Rico, but IIRC she trained in the US but I can’t recall if she started with US then switched over.
 
IIRC, Eileen Diaz never represented the US in an international competition, although she might have participated in some USAG events as a junior.

This thread made me remember Lanna Apisukh, who was the US Jr. National Champion in 1992 and represented the US in a few international meets before switching her nationality to Thailand. She won the AA at the 1995 SE Asian Championships and competed for Thailand at the 1995 Worlds and '96 Olympics. She then went on to have a pretty successful NCAA career at the University of Washington. She’s now a well-regarded photographer whose work often appears in the NY Times. (I did a serious double-take the first time I saw her by-line!)
 

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