Sabrina Vega: Don't Settle for Less Part 1

10:12 AM Arabian Punch Front 2 Comments

Photo Credit: USA Gymnastics

Sabrina Vega, born and raised in New York, is now calling Missouri her home. After the 2012 season had finished, Vega made the brave decision to leave the Big Apple to train under coaches Al and Armine Fong at Great American Gymnastics Express.

Sabrina first made the National Team as a junior back in 2008 and had a successful run in 2009, helping Team USA win gold in multiple international competitions. She finished the season by winning first place on floor exercise at both the US Classic and US National Championships. In 2010, she became the silver medalist on balance beam at the Pacific Rim Championships in Melbourne, Australia and won gold on beam at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Sabrina then went on to the 2010 US Classic and US National Championships where she finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively, on floor exercise.

After a successful junior career, Sabrina was ready to make her mark as a senior in 2011. She competed at the Jesolo Trophy in Italy where she tied for 1st on floor exercise with team member Aly Raisman. She finished 3rd in the all-around and 2nd on floor exercise at the US Classic knowing that Nationals would help determine the members of the 2011 World Championship team.  On Day 1 of Nationals, Sabrina finished in 8th after a difficult time on the uneven bars. She improved on day 2 to finish the meet 5th in the all-around, 5th on balance beam and 4th on floor exercise.

Sabrina earned a place on the 2011 World team and went on to finish the qualifying round in 9th in the all-around but was not allowed to compete in the all-around final due to the 2-per country rule. In team finals, Sabrina was the lead off on both uneven bars and balance beam, setting the pace for Team USA that would eventually end with Vega and the rest of the team being named World Champions.

Unfortunately, 2012 did not go as Vega had hoped. After having some difficulty with her double twisting Yurchenko vault, she downgraded to the one and a half twist at both Nationals and the Olympic Trials. The five tenths of a point loss was too large to be disguised, especially over 2 days of competition landing Sabrina in 7th at Nationals. Again, it was errors on bars that hurt Sabrina on both days of Olympic Trials where she finished in 10th and left without being named to the 2012 US Olympic team.

Now, Sabrina is ready, with new coaches and new teammates, to tackle whatever comes her way. I had the chance to talk with her about the lead up to the Olympics, her decision to change gyms, and her plans for the future.

How has training been going?
Training’s been going great! I feel like this move is definitely helping and I’m really liking this gym. [The training schedule] is different from my other gym. We go 6 days a week and focus on putting new skills in, technique, and all that. Right now, I’m working with Sarah Finnegan, Maddie Desch, Brenna Dowell, and other Level 9/10 athletes.

Who do you room with at camp?
Now, I normally room with Brenna or Sarah. They try to keep teammates together. In years prior, I was rooming with Kyla and McKayla. It changes every time but now that I have teammates, I’m rooming with them.

Did you miss the last training camp?
I had to go and have shoulder surgery so I’m in rehab now. It was an old injury so I just had to go and repair it. It’s supposed to be a 4 month recovery. We could work out on it but it’s a perfect time to fix it and I won’t have to worry about it in the years to come. This was probably the perfect time to take the time and repair it so when I do get healed up, it’s straightforward from then on. My goal is to heal up but if I’m ready to compete [for Classics and Nationals], then I will.

Given the injury and recovery time, what are your short-term goals?
Definitely just staying in the circle, and getting some assignments, and qualifying back into the National Team and World Championships as it comes up [2014].

Prior to the injury, were you working on any upgrades?
Definitely. I was able to upgrade pretty much on every event. I was able to reconstruct my bar routine to work with the new code. I’ve been working on new skills and I’m excited to show them off. On floor, I’ve been able to work and get the Arabian double and some double layouts. I’m definitely working on improving the technique on vault and working on getting the double full and am hopefully working towards the 2.5 but right now, the stage is getting the double back and improving the technique.

Could you tell us a little bit about the new floor routine?
I did get a new floor routine. I’m excited to show that too! I don’t know how to describe it… It’s a more classic song. It’s definitely different from the one I had last year.

Sabrina FX Day 2 2012 OT 6.0/15.000
Sabrina 2011 Nats Day 1 FX 5.7/14.5/-0.1

Are you staying with a host family?
I am. Yes. I’m staying with a host family from the area. I’m living right now with the pastor of a church around here and they’ve been really great and I’m really blessed and thankful to have them in my family now.

How is living with another family and being far from home?
It’s actually going really great. In the beginning, of course, I was missing my family and it’s definitely hard to live away from home but I just keep thinking of the goal I have in mind of the Olympics. I think it’s helping me get through it. The family’s great – they took me in as one of their children and I just am really thankful for that. Plus the gym is great. I can come in here all the time and can be with another family. Although I am missing my family, I have goals and I’m shooting for them.

What was the discussion like with your family when you were thinking about switching gyms and leaving New York?
It was a tough decision. It was definitely a group decision [that included] my whole family. It was more of a question of my goals. That was the first step I needed to take. When I decided I definitely wanted to continue training, I had to do what would help me achieve my goals. It was tough to leave my family and I’m so thankful that my parents supported me. I just needed to take the step that would take me to the next level, that would help me to achieve this Olympic dream. It was tough but we did it and I’m glad I did.

CoverGirl Classic 2011 VT

I had a moment to talk with Al Fong and asked about any other girls qualifying to elite or who we should watch for in the coming years.
Al Fong: Well, we’re focusing on 2016 so the girls that are eligible for that are Sabrina, Maddie, Sarah, and Brenna. But the girls in the wings, we definitely have girls that are training for 2020. Typically, you don’t see our girls until the end entering into the elite qualifying system. We don’t use the TOPs program and we don’t use the developmental program so the kids are never seen until it’s time.

We’re a big advocate of training athletes and using the age group program as a mile marker. Usually we’ll see them shine at the State Championships, Regionals, Westerns, Nationals. Even though they have loftier goals than age groups, you won’t necessarily see that until 2018 and 2019.

Check out Part 2 here


  1. Wow, didn't know Sabrina had all this going on. Thanks for the update APF!


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