"No fear" for rhythmic gymnast Zetlin
SAN JOSE, California |
SAN JOSE, California (Reuters) - Having survived an emotional roller-coaster ride to qualify for her first Olympics, American rhythmic gymnast Julie Zetlin has set her sights on showing no fear at the London Games.
Zetlin very nearly had her Olympic dream shattered by a knee injury last year but she overcame that setback to secure a wildcard spot for London at the 2011 world championships in France.
While the 21-year-old accepts she is unlikely to end up on the Olympic podium, she is banking on a fearless approach to help her finish in at least the top 15.
"My realistic expectations are not to medal," Zetlin, the 2011 Pan American Games champion, told Reuters on Thursday before the opening day of men's competition at the U.S. Olympic trials.
"A U.S. rhythmic gymnast has never medaled before at the Olympics. I just think that if I show strong routines, that will be good and maybe that can lead me into the top 10 or top 15."
Zetlin, whose mother Zsuzsi is a former Hungarian national champion in rhythmic gymnastics, has already shown impressive form this year, winning the all-around, ribbon and ball gold medals at the Pacific Rim Championships.
"By being not only a Pacific Rim champion but also the Pan-American champion, that's a lot of titles for me and more than I ever thought I would get as a gymnast," she smiled.
"Going to the Olympic Games, I just want to show no fear. A lot of the time, you see an athlete, especially one who has to perform on a stage, get tense and they can't show their full capacity, they can't show everything from their heart.
"I just want to look at that stage as something I am really comfortable with. Obviously I will have nerves and adrenalin but I hope not to be too shaky, I hope to show I am aggressive, a strong U.S. competitor and competitive with the whole world."
Zetlin will never forget the tortuous route she had to negotiate before she claimed the wildcard berth for the London Olympics at last year's world championships in Montpellier.
"It was my first competition back after a knee surgery so it was very nerve-racking to say the least," she said. "I didn't compete for four months and I only started jumping 10 days prior to the worlds.
"So it was very difficult. I wasn't exactly ready yet but I had no choice if I wanted to make it to the Olympic Games for my country."
Zetlin tore the meniscus in her right knee during practice and was advised to have surgery as soon as possible.
"So I was going from being under the knife to having a four-month recovery and rehabbing, trying to get back into shape, barely doing routines before the world championships and then competing," she said.
"It was a very, very scary experience for me. I just needed a few more weeks honestly to be at the top of my game. Thankfully I did well enough to get the wildcard."
Zetlin proved her worth as the wildcard pick a few weeks later when she shone at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara. She now plans to builds on that renaissance in London.
"I want to show that I deserve to be there," she said. "I am not just a wildcard. I could have been in the top 20 (at the world championships) but due to my knee, I wasn't as prepared as I could have been. I just want to hit everything.
"That's what I've been doing in training and I want my training to reflect that in the competition at the Olympics."
(Editing by Clare Fallon)
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