Interview with Talia Chiarelli
Credit: Grace Chiu/GraceClick.ca
Talia Chiarelli is a Canadian gymnast who recently signed her letter of intent to the University of Michigan. In 2011, her first year as a senior gymnast, Talia earned the bronze medal on the floor exercise at the Canadian Championships. She was named as an alternate to the 2011 World Championship team but represented Canada at both the 2011 Pan American Games and the 2012 London Test Event. As 2012 continued, Talia Chiarelli was named as one of twelve gymnasts from which the final Olympic team would be chosen but withdrew abruptly due to a back injury. Talia is now back in the gym and getting ready to compete as a Wolverine next year.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Ottawa, Canada, and trained at Nepean Corona School of Gymnastics until I was 11. I moved to Brestyan’s in August of 2006 when we moved to Massachusetts. When I competed with Bluewater my coaches were Dave and Liz Brubaker. I don’t really train at Bluewater, but I compete with them as my Canadian club.
How did you make the decision to start competing for Canada?
I never really thought about it, but Mihai was kind of friends with Dave Brubaker and I think they talked about the idea. At first I tried it out to see how it was, and I ended up really enjoying it and realized I could get serious about it.
You were named as an alternate to the 2011 Worlds Team. What was the year like leading up to that moment and what was it like being in Japan with the team?
2011 was such a fun year. I went to Canadian Nationals for the first time in May, and then after that I was assigned to go to the Japan Cup in Tokyo with a couple other girls. That was my first assignment and my first time traveling overseas, so it was a blast. Being in Japan the second time was a little different and a little bit of a roller coaster, but it was a great experience and I got so much closer with all the girls. We were together for less than a month, but I felt like I know all the girls for my whole life.
Soon after Worlds, you went to the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico where you helped Canada earn the team silver medal, placed 13th in the all-around in qualifications and competed in the balance beam event finals. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
Pan Ams was so fun. It was the same team as the worlds team except for some minor changes due to injuries, and it was about a week after we got back from Japan. The whole experience was literally life changing. Since it was a Games and all other sports were there too and we stayed in an athletes village, it felt like a mini Olympics. I got to meet so many people, and competing with the Mexican crowd was so entertaining.
Then you competed at the London Test Event and helped Canada qualify a team to the Olympics. How was that competition?
The test event was probably the most fun I’ve ever had at a competition. There was so much on the line, but we were all so well prepared that the actual competition was easy for us. We had awesome team chemistry and competing was so much fun. Competing in the O2 was so special, there were so many people and it was crazy to think that the Olympics would be happening there in a couple months.
You withdrew from Canada’s Olympic selection team due to injury. Could you talk about the back injury and how you felt during that time?
After I got back from a competition in Brazil in April my back started bothering me, but I thought it must be just sore so I kind of ignored it and kept working. It started getting worse, so I took a couple weeks off from doing actual gymnastics and missed Nationals. It felt a little better so I started training again, but it got a lot worse very quickly and I realized I couldn’t really compete with it at Trials. I learned I had a severe stress fracture in my lower back. It was definitely really hard because it came at an awful time, considering I had never really had a major injury before, but I guess everything happens for a reason! I went to trials anyways and got to see my teammates and best friends make the Olympic team, which was amazing to see and I was so happy for every one of them.
Now, it seems that you’re back at Brestyan’s. Where are you in recovering from that injury and will we see you competing this year? What level?
I started full training again in November, after a long summer of conditioning and rehab. I’m still not completely back to where I was but I’m getting there! (Editor's Note: Talia recently competed at Elite Canada on vault, balance beam, and floor exercise and made the balance beam event finals.)
We’ve spoken about the past, so let’s talk about your future as a Wolverine! First off, were you considering schools in Canada as well?
I never really considered schools in Canada because they don’t have college gymnastics, and I always knew I wanted to continue my gymnastics career into college. But there are definitely some great schools there!
How did you choose the University of Michigan and what is one place on campus that you are most excited for?
When I was thinking about what university to choose, I wanted to make sure that it had a good gymnastics program, but more importantly that the academics were good. I knew that Michigan was a great school and very competitive academically, and they also had a great gymnastics team. It’s also not too far away from home, which is ideal. And I don’t think I could choose one place on campus I’m most excited for, I’m looking forward to every part of it!
Where do you hope to contribute for Michigan (which events)?
I hope I get to do all around, but we’ll see where I fit in.
Do you have any idea what you would like to major in?
I literally change my mind every single day. Sometimes I think I want to be some kind of doctor, then the next day I want to go into business, then the day after that I want to be a news reporter. I really have no idea, but thankfully I don’t have to decide yet.
What are your goals for this season?
I mainly just want to stay healthy and finish off the year strong, so I’m ready to go in college. I don’t really have any specific results goals right now.
Who are your role models both in and out of the sport? You seem to be really close with your brother. Is he involved at all in your gymnastics?
My parents are my biggest role models out of the sport. They inspire me every day. I don’t really have a gymnastics role model, but literally any gymnast could inspire me because it’s such hard work! I’m really close with my brother, he’s one of my best friends. He’s not really involved, he does other sports, mainly hockey.
What are 3 words your teammates would use to describe you?
Crazy, sarcastic, stubborn
What was it like watching the 2012 Olympics after having trained with Aly and the Canadian team for a few years?
Probably one of the proudest moments… Aly did absolutely amazing, and seeing all the hours of hard work she put in beforehand made it even more incredible to watch. Everyone sees the result on TV, but not everyone is there everyday in the gym, watching how hard it is. I was also so proud of the Canadians, they had their best result ever and they completely deserved it. No one expected them to do that well, so it was great to see them prove that they shouldn’t be overlooked.
Team Canada at the Test Event after qualifying a team to the Olympics
L-R: Victoria Moors, Maddie Gardiner, Christine Peng Peng Lee, Talia Chiarelli, Kristina Vaculik, and Brittany Rogers
What were your favorite moments of the Olympics?
Watching Aly win floor and watching the Canadians during team finals. Both things were literally magical to watch.
If you weren’t doing gymnastics, what sport would you like to do?
I think I’d be a soccer player. I always played soccer when I was little, and I only stopped because I was doing gymnastics so much. I think I’d be decent if I stuck with it.
siblings - names, ages: Cameron, 16
favorite event: floor
least favorite event: bars
skill that took you the longest to learn: a giant on bars
favorite show: SNL
favorite song of the moment: Thrift Shop
favorite place you traveled to: London
favorite movie: Bridesmaids and The Hunger Games
last movie you watched: Bridesmaids
most embarrassing gymnastics moment: my grips ripped and I probably flew half way across the gym
proudest gymnastics moment: helping qualify a team to the 2012 Olympics!
Thank you for the interview, Talia, and good luck with the rest of the season!
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And more Talia induced hilarity (link):