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Gymnast Christina Desiderio

After almost making the Olympic team, Christina Desiderio transitioned from elite- to college-level gymnastics and she couldn’t be happier.

Eighteen-year-old gymnast Christina Desiderio says competing at the 2016 Olympic trials after earning a spot twice on the U.S. national team was by far the highlight of her career.

“19,000 people, not a seat empty! Two days that I will never forget,” she says.

“I worked for 10 years of my life to try to make it to the 2016 Olympics,” she says. “That didn’t happen, but I got as close to my dream as I possibly could and I was so proud of myself! I worked so hard and even though I didn’t make it to my end goal, I still believe that all my hard work paid off.”

Desiderio is now a student at Louisiana State University, whose team placed fourth at the 2018 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships.

Her goal is for the team to win a national championship. “We’re all working very hard toward that,” she says.

But for a few months after the Olympic trials, Desiderio says, she didn’t know what she wanted to do.

“I felt pretty lost. I felt like I accomplished so much and I didn’t really know where to go from there. I was debating whether I should train for another four years and try for the Olympics again, or drop down to level 10 to enjoy my last two years before college.”

About nine months after Olympic trials, she hurt her back, and at that moment she knew it was a sign that she couldn’t be doing high-level gymnastics anymore. “That’s when I decided to come to college a year early,” she explains. “It was a very difficult decision, but it was definitely the best decision I could’ve made!”

Desiderio left elite-level gymnastics to join the LSU team. “I am beyond happy that I made the transition to college. It was definitely a big transformation from elite to college, but I love it! Being on a big team is something I’ve been waiting for my whole career.”

Desiderio started at age 6 in gymnastics, a sport her mother always wanted to take part in when she was younger. She fell in love with the sport immediately, and the love has only grown since, she says.

“Yes, I have my bad days, but I couldn’t imagine my life without it. The part I love most is being able to work hard for something and have it pay off in the end. It is a very rewarding sport if you give 100 percent effort all the time.”

Being a high-level gymnast takes mental and physical toughness, passion, drive, motivation, constant hard work, and “the right attitude and being able to fail and bounce back from it,” she says.

Her strengths as a gymnast are being able to compete under pressure and being mentally strong. “A lot of gymnasts struggle with those things, but over the years I’ve been able to learn and overcome the fears and nerves,” she says.

During competition, she tries to keep herself calm and focused by visualizing and praying, she says. “You’ll probably see my head down and eyes closed a few times throughout the competitions,” she says.

As for her weaknesses, she’s too tough on herself, she says. “I expect a lot from myself, and most of the time that is good, but I also have to tell myself that not everything is going to be good all of the time; that is just a part of life.”

Desiderio is majoring in sports administration and says she doesn’t know yet what she wants to do once she graduates. “Gymnastics is my passion, and I feel like I can’t live without it in some shape or form, so I’m trying to figure out if I want to do something in the gymnastics world or just in sports in general.”

The above appears in the January 2019 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.

About Elena Ferrarin

Elena Ferrarin is a native of Rome who has worked as a journalist in the United States since 2002. She is a reporter for the Daily Herald in the Chicago suburbs and has been a correspondent for Fra Noi for more than a decade. She previously worked as a reporter for The Regional News in Palos Heights and as a reporter/assistant editor for Reflejos, a Spanish-English newspaper in Arlington Heights. She has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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