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Elizabeth Price Looks Back on Her Gymnastics Career

Elizabeth Price / JWS
Elizabeth Price / JWS

Elizabeth Price is a retired gymnast who competed on the US national team as an alternate for the 2012 Olympics and at Stanford University. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in design engineering at Harvard. At Stanford, Price won national championships in the vault and the uneven bars. Below, she spoke to Just Women’s Sports about her career as an elite gymnast, her experience with the national team, and the necessary changes the sport is undergoing. 

A lot of gymnasts start at a very young age. Was that true for you and how did you get introduced to the sport? 

Yes. I started when I was three. My mom put me in the sport because she said I had too much energy and she just needed me to do something. It ended up being gymnastics. My parents have no gymnastics background whatsoever. But both my parents would drive past this gym on the way to work when I was little and my mom saw little kids running in and out so she decided to stop by. It was gymnastics, so she was like, “Perfect!” She signed me up for a class, and the rest is history. I was six when I started competing at meets around Pennsylvania where I grew up when, and then each year I’d move up a level and start competing in more competitions, and traveling to more places.

I read that you were homeschooled most of your childhood to focus on training for elite gymnastics. At such a young age, what was it like to dedicate yourself to a sport like that? 

I was twelve, going into seventh grade when I started homeschooling because that was also the year when I became an elite gymnast. My coaches saw a lot of potential in me before then and really actually wanted me to start homeschooling earlier so I could spend more time in the gym. But it was my parents who wanted me to wait a little bit longer. Once I qualified as an elite, I stopped going to school and became homeschooled. From then on, I spent 40 hours a week in the gym until I graduated high school.

Does becoming an elite gymnast mean that you’re basically on track to competing with the Olympic team at some point?

Yeah, it’s definitely the track for the National Team and the Olympics. You can’t go to the Olympics unless you’re on the national team, so that’s the ultimate goal. But the first goal if you want to make it to the Olympics is becoming an elite gymnast.

Was there ever a point in your childhood to early teenage years that you questioned your love of the sport? 

There were things that I didn’t like that I had to do to be as good as I was. For example, I didn’t want to be homeschooled. I loved going to school as a kid so that was a huge sacrifice for me. And then even when I was younger practices were longer. Even then it was like, oh I can’t go trick-or-treating. That’s not a big deal, but to a nine year old that was a big deal. So little things like that that I really missed out on. Birthday parties, vacations, that kind of stuff. Around the time I was maybe eleven or twelve, that’s when the competitions and the training required more focus, dedication, and effort on my part. That is when gymnastics became something I was really dedicating myself to, as opposed to something that I did and just happened to be really good at.

What was your go-to event?

So I competed in all four events throughout my entire gymnastics career. Most girls before college compete in all four. However, my strongest events were floor and uneven bars. And I would say bars are my favorite, for sure.

You were a member of the US Senior National Team in 2012 and an alternate for the 2012 Olympics. What was that experience like?

I don’t think I really saw myself as going to the Olympics, ever. Not that I didn’t think that I was good enough, but as a kid, you see the people at the Olympics, and those are the best in the world. And I never personally never thought of myself as one of the best in the world. Yes, I thought I was competing with the best, I was holding my own. But I never really saw myself as being able to go out there and be one of the best in the world. At least not until I was at Olympic trials.

I don’t think I realized that I had the potential to really make an Olympic team until that meet. I didn’t have confidence in myself before then. Even if I’d go out there and win every event, I still wouldn’t think that I was one of the best. But the year of the trials was one of my best years ever. I was super consistent and doing really well. I ended up finishing fourth at the Olympic trials. I mean, it really doesn’t get much better than that. Obviously that was a huge accomplishment to finish so high and qualify for an alternate spot on the team. But it was also huge for me personally because that was the moment when I realized oh wow, I’m definitely able to go out there and be one of the best in the world, if not the best in the world one day.

Five gymnasts compete in the Olympics. You placed fourth in the Trials. So how come they didn’t choose a top-5 performer from the trials for the team?

So the only person who’s guaranteed a spot on the Olympic team is the person who finishes first at trials. All of the other spots are selected individually. And in 2012 they took the first place person, who I’m pretty sure was Gabby Douglas, and then they took the second and third place person, the fifth place person, and the seventh place person. In the Olympics, not everyone gets to compete in every event. There’s strategy in picking the team. You want the five people who would get the top three scores on each event. So it’s more than just taking the five best all around gymnastics. So even though I competed in all of the events, if I was to end up selected, it would have been for either floor, bars or the vault.

Were you surprised to not have been selected?

After the meet was over and I was sitting in fourth place, I definitely thought I was going to be selected as one of the five people to compete. But at the same time, I wasn’t really sure, because I knew I was right on the edge. The people who placed above me were stronger all around gymnasts, and the people who placed below me were stronger on individual events. Of course, I would’ve loved to have been part of the five who got to compete, but also being selected as an alternate is a huge accomplishment. I mean, how many people get to say that they were part of an Olympic team at all? So I was very proud of myself and definitely happy with what I got in the end.

You retired from elite gymnastics in 2014 before heading to Stanford. Is it common for athletes to choose between competing in college and with the national team? 

Very few people do both. If anything, if you still want to do elite gymnastics, people might take off a semester or something to train for the national team. But like I said earlier, elite gymnastics requires 40 hours a week of training. And I could not do that and compete for Stanford at the same time, on top of the academics.

How did you feel when you retired from elite gymnastics? Was it a sense of relief or was it more excitement about this new chapter?

I was very excited about what was coming next, because at the end of my elite career I had accomplished everything that I wanted to. I didn’t necessarily compete at World Championships or compete at the Olympics, but those were never my specific goals. I wanted to make the national team and just be the best gymnast that I could be, and I felt that I had proven to myself that I was stronger than I thought. I had gotten everything I would receive from elite gymnastics, and so I was very excited to head to Stanford and see what it had to offer.

Right away, your freshman year, you win the NCAA vault title. How do you feel like that set expectations for the rest of your Stanford career?

I had high expectations for myself going in. But college gymnastics is much different than everything else. The judging is different, the routine structure is different, and I wasn’t sure how I would compare to the other athletes and their routines. So going out there and being able to win an NCAA title my freshman year was super reassuring and obviously a great accomplishment. Especially as a freshman who was new to the whole college scene, so it was pretty awesome.

What makes the competition different in college? 

Aspects of it were easier. For example, in college you can’t train more than 20 hours. So obviously there goes half of my training time. Additionally, in the elite you’re basically trying to do the hardest possible skills you can and make them look pretty decent. In college you’re not necessarily trying to do the hardest skills. You’re trying to do medium difficulty skills but make them look absolutely perfect. And that was basically the difference. You’re really focusing on trying to get the perfect 10, which is different in elite scoring because in elite scoring you can’t really get a 10. As you just add harder skills, the scores go higher and higher and higher. There’s really no limit to the scoring, so that’s the biggest difference.

What did it mean for you to end your gymnastics career as An NCAA champion?

It was more than I could’ve asked for. Knowing it was going to be my last competition, my main goal was just to go out there and hit four solid routines and do as good as I possibly could. But I did even better than that because I scored a 10 at nationals, which never even crossed my mind as being a possibility. I’m like, you’re at nationals, there’s even more judges, they’re doing everything they can to find everything wrong with your routine. So the fact that I scored a perfect 10 at nationals at my last competition was just the cherry on top. All the hard work, all the hours I put in my whole life, and especially in college and all of the injuries I endured — everything was worth it.

How did you deal with the transition out of gymnastics when you graduated?

Starting when I was a kid, I wanted to be an engineer. Before I knew I was going to do college gymnastics or be an elite gymnast, I knew I wanted to be an engineer. So throughout my college experience, I always saw the end of gymnastics coming. I knew exactly when it was coming, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do afterwards, so the transition was pretty natural. Although gymnastics was the biggest part of my life, it wasn’t my life. I’ve always wanted to do other things, and I just happened to spend a lot of my time doing gymnastics along the way.

I wanted to transition to more current events. Athletes have been at the forefront of the social justice conversation this year. What are your thoughts on the importance of athletes using their platform to speak up on these issues? 

I personally think it’s absolutely amazing to see athletes stepping up and using their platforms to bring attention to these really important matters. Especially because so often the general public use athletes as these perfect beings that are so far removed from social issues. But I think it’s really important to see these athletes step up and be saying something and using their platform, because it lets people know that everyone is attached to this. No one is unaffected by what’s going on.

Obviously a big storyline in the gymnastics world the past few years has been all the coaching abuse scandals. What’s been your perspective on these changing dynamics within the sport? 

It’s difficult to analyze a lot of what goes on right now, because gymnastics is a sport that involves athletes that are very young, much younger than other sports. Most gymnasts start when they’re like five years old, and all their careers are done before they’re 22. It is really important to analyze exactly what the coaching structure is because all of the athletes, as great as we are, we’re still only children and have most of our lives to live after our sport is over. It’s not something we get to do forever, so I think it’s great to see the change that’s coming to the sport of gymnastics with regards to how people treat coaching, how coaches are treating athletes, and how everyone’s making sure that accountability is being placed on the people whose jobs it is to take care of the athletes.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

One former player contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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