COLUMBIA — Sandra Ostad has been in the United States for all of a month.
The Missouri gymnastics team’s newest member joined the team in January after competing in the World Championships in London for her home country of Norway. The Tigers’ season began in early January, leaving Ostad with little time to get used to life with a new team in a new country.
New Hampshire at Missouri for the Beauty and the Beast meet
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Hearnes Center
“It’s been a lot of big adjustments,” Ostad said. “But I think I’m doing pretty good. The girls (on the team) have helped me a lot, and I’m so glad that I’ve got them. I got help from everyone that I needed.”
Usually, college gymnasts have an entire semester to prepare for the start of the season.
“Most of our athletes come over in the summer from high school,” Missouri coach Rob Drass said. “They’ll spend four to eight weeks in the summer here, take some classes, and kind of get acclimated a little bit. Then we have a whole semester to get them in routine shape and to bond as a team and learn their role. We’re asking Sandra to do that quite quickly.”
That acclimation is also taking place over 4,400 miles away from home.
“She’s doing fantastic,” Tigers senior Sarah Shire said. “Her whole world was flipped upside down, so she’s done a really good job adapting socially, in the gym, in school I know she’s doing well. We all love having her here, and I can’t wait to see what all she has in her because I know she’s going to be great one day.”
Ostad, who enters MU as a freshman, is no stranger to the sport. She is the reigning Northern European Uneven Bars Champion, and she captured titles in uneven bars and balance beam at the Norwegian National Championships in 2007 and 2008.
Despite her international experience, Ostad says the gymnastics in America offers something she likes better.
“The (gymnastics) environment is so much bigger than in Norway,” Ostad said. “That’s nice. I like it here. It’s a lot of fun.”
Ostad has not broken into the Missouri lineup yet, competing in exhibition events in each of the past two Tigers meets.
“I think she’s gotten better both times,” Shire said. “I think a couple more times to get a little more confidence underneath her, and then pretty soon we should see her, by the end of season, definitely competing for us.”
Ostad says she realizes it's hard to say exactly when she'll get to compete for real.
“I don’t know,” Ostad said humbly. “You’ll have to ask the coaches. I feel that the girls have been working toward this all of last semester, and I just got here. But, I feel that I’m getting there. And, hopefully I get to compete real soon.”
The transition to a new country is obviously difficult, and Ostad said differences between Norwegian and American food are among the biggest adjustments. But a small reminder of home is just around the corner. The Winter Olympics begin next week in Vancouver, and Ostad’s face lit up when the Games were mentioned. Norway boasts the most medals in Winter Olympics history.
“It’s pretty huge (in Norway),” said Ostad, who claims Norwegian cross-country skier Petter Northug as a favorite. “It’s fun to see your country win a lot, so I’m excited.”