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Senior gymnast excited to perform in front of parents again

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Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013 12:00 am

Marissa King’s parents went 48 meets without seeing her perform as a Gator.

They watched her compete as an Olympian for Great Britain in 2008.

Before last Friday’s meet against Kentucky, they were never in attendance.

But when No. 2 Florida (7-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) faces No. 14 Minnesota (12-2, 4-1 Big 10) tonight at 7 in the O’Connell Center, King’s parents will be watching from the crowd — again.

"Having them there on Friday night was really special," King said.

"It kind of brought back old feelings of competing in England."

Her parents, Clifford and Joy, watched as the Gators rallied past the Wildcats in front of a crowd of 4,321.

It was the first time they saw Marissa compete at the college level.

When King traveled to the U.S. to compete as a college gymnast in 2010, she had no family roots in Gainesville aside from a close friendship with former Gators gymnast Nicola Willis.

"Every time I competed in England, I always had my parents watch me," King said.

"It was really difficult as a freshman trying to get used to not having my family here at all."

Despite living in a different country on her own, King has enjoyed an accomplished career at Florida.

She has earned All-American honors seven times and was named the 2011 NCAA Vault Champion in her sophomore year.

But with her success came challenges.

As a sophomore, King underwent foot and shoulder surgeries.

She had a slight tear in her left pectoral muscle and was forced to forgo competing at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. She named the pectoral injury the worst of her career.

"I did have my coaches and my team, but the one thing I needed most was my closest friends and family, and I didn’t have that," King said.

Minor setbacks haven’t limited her this year, though. King has finished second in five events and posted a season-high 9.95 floor routine against Kentucky on Feb. 22.

Even after three years with one of the top NCAA gymnastics programs, coach Rhonda Faehn says King continues to push herself.

"She has all these goals, and she’s up on the wall," Faehn said.

"(She’s) a national champion and she still wants to do even more this year."

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