COLUMBIA — Missouri freshman gymnast Alex Gold sits on a mat at practice. She talks with her teammates about her classes and the team. When a teammate makes a joke, Gold laughs and flashes a brilliant smile. Gold says she has never been happier in gymnastics than at Missouri.
Gold’s journey to this larger stage, however, was interrupted. In ninth grade, Gold quit gymnastics, a sport she had been competing in since she was 6. She said she quit partially because her coach left for the Olympics, but also because she was mentally and physically drained from the rigors of nonstop training.
“I really needed a break from the sport, and it was really good for me to quit,” Gold said. “I was just physically burned out.”
Before ninth grade, Gold, who is from Plano, Texas, had been training 35 hours a week including two-a-day practices. She would practice for about two hours before school and then three hours after school. The constant training took a toll on her body.
At first, Gold was happy to have a break from gymnastics. However, as time passed, she began to miss the friendships she made while training.
“The first four months I was really excited I was out of it,” Gold said. “But, the last two (months) I was envious of my friends who were still in it.”
Gold’s best friends were gymnasts and when they would hang out, they would talk about gymnastics. Although she did not miss the coaches, she missed the sport.
She said she came back to gymnastics because she was bored and missed her friends. For the past 10 years, with the exception of that 6-month period during ninth grade, she has stuck with the sport, training every week. She said she could not picture herself doing anything other than gymnastics.
“(I wanted) to get a college scholarship first of all,” Gold said. “But, I missed the sport, and I didn’t know what to do with myself since I have been doing it for so long.”
When Gold came back to gymnastics, she didn’t feel like her old self, and some of her normal routines seemed difficult. It took her four months to get back in shape.
“I knew everything, but it took me a long time to get back to doing the simplest things,” Gold said. “It was really frustrating, but I eventually got back.”
Gold does not regret her time away from gymnastics because she says the rest was necessary for her body and mind, but the break and ensuing fight to get back in shape taught her a key life lesson.
“I have become more patient with myself because coming back into it, it was really hard and frustrating,” Gold said. “I don’t get as frustrated as easily now.”
Now Gold says she is enjoying gymnastics more than ever because of the focus of collegiate gymnastics.
“(My love for gymnastics) is the best it’s ever been,” Gold said. “I love college gymnastics and it’s 10 times better than club because it’s for the team.”
While the MU gymnastics team is ranked No. 14 in the country, Gold has proven to be an indispensable part of the vault rotation, ranking 74th in the country and second on the team.
Gold has truly embodied the team-first aspect of gymnastics and is willing to do whatever the team asks of her in competition. She not only is a great teammate, but also a great friend.
“We’ve been connected at the hip ever since we met,” Lisa LaPerriere, Gold’s teammate and roommate, said. “Whenever I need advice, she’s always there.”
Gold has also showed the coaching staff that she is the consummate teammate because of the way she approaches the sport.
“I think Alex brings a hard working ethic to our team,” Missouri head coach Rob Drass said. “She has all the morals and values that we feel are important.”
Although some days can be difficult trying to manage the pressures of college gymnastics with school, Gold is not thinking about quitting anytime soon and is thoroughly enjoying her time at Missouri.
“I really like it and am really excited to be here and part of the program,” Gold said. “I couldn’t be happier.”