THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
Like many other sports, especially those that take place indoors, the NCAA Gymnastic Women's tournament were postponed last year. With the Olympics also put on hold, it means that the top young talent in America had to wait until this past weekend to really put themselves to a proper test, and it was well worth the wait, more so if you are a first time National winner.
Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas was the venue for both the semi-finals and finals with eight of the nations best colleges competing in the four rotational events of vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor routine. On the Friday afternoon Michigan and Florida advanced to the Saturday final, by beating off the challenge of California and Minnesota. Then in the evening session it was Alabama and LSU that left early as Oklahoma and Utah booked their ticket to the final day. This all coming after intense regional rounds across the country a fortnight before.
After a thrilling evening in front of a limited audience, it was Michigan who won the title for the first time ever, and it came down to the very last routine, and a tense wait for the score to be verified. "I'm just so overwhelmed, and I'm so proud of this team. And I'm so happy for the sacrifices, hard work, and everything they put into this season." Said an emotional head coach Bev Plocki moments after the scoreboard lit up declaring Michigan the winners.
The total score of 198.2500 edged out second place Oklahoma, who scored 198.1625. Third place was Utah with 197.9875, with Florida trailing with a combined score of 197.1375. Star of the weekend was Oklahoma's Anastasia Webb, who was the overall combined winner, as well as picking up top scores in the vault and floor routine. Her moment came on Friday night in the semi-finals when finishing her floor routine, she smiled brightly and as she left the mat was soon embraced by her assistant coach Tom Haley, "I was just so caught up in the moment, I was just so happy…that moment I'll never forget it." Oklahoma has a solid history with bringing on the best individual talent, and Webb is now the third to win the individual title, follow in the tumbling, twisting, footsteps of Kelly Garrison in 1987-88 and Maggie Nichols in 2018-19. "Oh gosh. That is an amazing opportunity and an amazing experience." When being told she was joining elite company.
Webb is now a Senior but has the opportunity to stay on and maybe defend her title, due to the blanket waiver that was put in place because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This allows all athletes to compete an extra year and given that on the day of her winning performance she also learned that she has been accepted into a health administration master's program, it may help her decision.
It has been a long talked about idea, and now finally, with all the teams in place, it can look ahead to what will hopefully be a bright future. The European League of Football has just announced the full schedule for its inaugural season. With just two months to go before the opening weekend the league commissioner Patrick Esume, who was the offensive coordinator for the Hamburg Sea Devils when the 2007 Europe League ended, was very upbeat about the new model "We have worked very hard in the past month to build up the European League of Football. And we still have an intense time ahead of us. But with the announcement of the fixture list, it all becomes more tangible, more realistic. I'm sure it's not just us, league officials, but also those involved in the franchises and the fans. We're all ready for great football on a great stage."
Barcelona Dragons v Stuttgart Surge
Panthers Wroclaw v Cologne Centurions
Hamburg Sea Devils v Frankfurt Galaxy
Berlin Thunder v Leipzig Kings
League CEO Zeljko Karajica said, "The closer it gets to kick-off, the greater the anticipation for us and our partners. One top match will be broadcast every Sunday on ProSieben MAXX [a free-to-air channel in Germany] and another on ran.de [a German sports website]. But all other games can also be followed in the livestream via the European League of Football network. We will provide information on this in due course."