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Friday, April 19, 2024

You know the feeling you get when you're trying to impress somebody, and you're hoping more than anything else you don't mess up?

Gymnasts know that feeling too well. Their sport depends on it. The UF gymnastics team has to impress two judges for dual meets week after week.

In a subjective sport where even a "hello" between gymnast and judge prior to the meet is considered a no-no, sometimes it's all about giving off a good vibe and hoping the right judge picks it up.

UF junior Melanie Sinclair has been growing up with judges from the state of Florida and has established a natural rapport with them - even though it hardly affects the scores they give her.

Some judges have been evaluating her since she was little, and it has helped establish a natural, back-of-the-mind home-field advantage.

It's nearly impossible to say if that extra smile or displaying team camaraderie helps for an extra hundredth of a point, but it's worth trying every time.

"Every time I see a judge, I always make sure that I'm laughing or smiling," Sinclair said. "Judges like it whenever you're happy and carry that personality."

Even though gymnastics is a sport where perfection is measured, gymnasts say they aren't really paying attention to a numerical score after their dismount.

"You do leave it up to the judges' hands whenever you do your stuff," Sinclair said. "But by me being me and trying to be a good performer, I feel that should be enough in the judges' eyes to give me what I need in order to have a good score."

Alicia Goodwin said she simply sees her routines as either good or bad, and from there it's up to the judge to determine what to score a good or bad routine. The sophomore said she's not focused on the judge as much as she is on carrying out her routine.

Goodwin also said that for small things, she would try to blend in artistry to cover up any mistakes.

"If I have a little wobble, I try to cover it up with a pose and pretend that it's supposed to be there," Goodwin admitted.

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She said that while it may be aesthetically pleasing to the crowd, it doesn't get past judges.

UF coach Rhonda Faehn said gymnasts sometimes try and just engage the judge along with the crowd. The main channel for that engagement is floor exercise, which is the longest event and gives the gymnast the greatest chance for artistic and personal expression.

"The time that they really get to interact with judges is on floor," Faehn said. "On the floor, they actually have opportunities where they feel like they can perform and look the judges in the eyes."

So how would Sinclair and Goodwin fare as judges?

"I think I'd be pretty picky, but I wouldn't be the judge everyone hates," Goodwin said. Sinclair said she'd be a wholly unbiased judge, albeit the fun judge.

"But I'm going to be fair, when it comes down to it," Sinclair said. "Whoever is doing their gymnastics and doing it right, I'm going to give them what they deserve."

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