COLUMBIA — If you’re ever in the Missouri gymnastics practice area at the Hearnes Center, and you happen to hear someone belting out their best version of “Oops!... I Did It Again,” there’s a good chance it’s Brittany.
Not Britney Spears. Missouri freshman gymnast Brittany Bendoff.
WHEN: 2 p.m.
WHERE: H.E. Kenney Gym, Champaign, Ill.
“Whenever Britney Spears comes on,” sophomore Mary Burke said, “We yell ‘Brittany!’”
Singing along with the 90’s pop star is just one of the many things Bendoff does to put smiles on her teammates’ faces.
“I like to sing a lot,” Bendoff said. “I don’t have a good voice at all, but my bad voice makes people laugh.”
Making people laugh is important to Bendoff. She describes herself as “bubbly,” and her coaches and teammates agree. They said she brings a lot of energy to the team.
“She is one of the funniest girls I’ve ever met,” Burke said.
According to Bendoff, her joking, singing and dancing is aimed to cheer up her teammates if they are having a rough day.
Although, according to Tigers coach Rob Drass, it was Bendoff who was dealing with some small issues of her own at the start of her first year of college.
“I think there was a little bit of a transition in the fall,” Drass said. “She was homesick a little bit. But, once the season started, I think that Brittany’s true nature is the competition arena. This is a time that makes all the hard work worth it.”
Bendoff’s coach and teammates praised her past several weeks of work. The freshman cracked the lineup during home meets against Oklahoma and Illinois State earlier this season, but she only performed in exhibition last weekend at SEMO.
Drass said Bendoff adds depth to the roster. Bendoff admitted that a “not as good” week of practice leading up to Sunday’s meet cost her a third straight week of action. She said her move out of the lineup was an “eye-opener,” but she hasn’t stopped working hard.
“It was fun exhibitioning, but it’s so much more fun to contribute to the team’s overall score,” Bendoff said.
Drass said he likes the competition between the Tigers gymnasts for spots in the lineup, and Bendoff admits her drive is heightened to return to performing for points.
Bendoff said she has hopes of getting into the lineup on a more consistent basis, and senior all-arounder Sarah Shire thinks that Bendoff could be competing on all four events by the end of this season or next year.
“In about the last month she’s really started to come into herself, settle in,” Shire said. “That makes coming into the gym a bit easier. I think she’s finally finding herself, and we’re going to see great things from her eventually.”
Shire had some fun of her own with the bubbly Bendoff last week, joking about the freshman’s shorts and Ugg boots fashion combination.
Bendoff and Shire both think Bendoff could step into Shire's leadership role later in her career.
The coaching staff won’t reveal the lineups for Saturday afternoon’s meet at Illinois until Friday, leaving Bendoff’s status in question. There is no question, however, that her high energy and Britney Spears singalongs will continue to please her teammates.