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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Column: Come witness Bridget Sloan’s greatness one last time

<p>Bridget Sloan performs her floor routine during Florida's loss to LSU on Feb. 26, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.</p>

Bridget Sloan performs her floor routine during Florida's loss to LSU on Feb. 26, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.

Clear your schedule.

Cancel those dinner plans.

Tonight, you need to be inside the O’Connell Center to witness one of the greatest athletes in Florida history compete one final time.

The UF gymnastics team hosts North Carolina at 6:45 p.m. in its regular season finale, a meet that means relatively little in the grand scheme of the Gators’ hopes of a fourth-consecutive national title.

But while there isn’t much on the line for Florida, there’s a lot on the line for you.

That’s because unless you plan on driving over 15 hours to see a postseason meet, tonight is your last chance to see senior Bridget Sloan compete in person.

Not just this season.

Not just in her collegiate career.


There isn’t a professional league for gymnasts to continue their careers — although Sloan would be the sure-fire No. 1 pick if there were one — so this is it for Sloan’s life as a gymnast.

And what a career it has been.

For the sake of space, let’s just look at her time at Florida — ignoring the early part of her gymnastics career that included a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics.

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You may think it’s an overstatement to call her one of the greatest athletes in UF history, but her impact on the program has been beyond what this column can articulate.

I’ll try, though.

There have been 31 perfect 10s in school history.

Sloan has seven, more than any other gymnast, and she’s the only gymnast in UF history to post a perfect 10 in each event.

She has eight of the top 16 all-around scores in school history.

She has 23 all-around titles, good for third in school history, and she has a chance to pass the record of 27 by the end of the postseason.

The biggest two numbers of all, however, are zero and three. The first is the number of national titles Florida had won prior to Sloan’s arrival in Gainesville, and the second is how many the program has won since, all in a row.

That’s no accident.

With all due respect to former coach Rhonda Faehn and all the talented gymnasts who helped capture those three crowns, the Gators aren’t national champions without Sloan.

Florida was a program on the cusp, an annual contender that didn’t have quite what it took to beat the perennial powers in the sport.

But Sloan changed that, both through her performance on the competition floor and her leadership off of it.

And in the process, she changed the perception of the program itself and made it possible to bring in the best gymnasts from around the country to carry on the championship pedigree that she's leaving behind.

So show up tonight.

Watch her elegance on the bars and her power on floor one more time.

Who knows, you might be lucky enough to witness another perfect 10.

One thing is for sure, though — you’ll be witnessing something you won’t soon see again.

Graham Hack is a sports writer. You can contact him at and follow him on Twitter @graham_hack24

Bridget Sloan performs her floor routine during Florida's loss to LSU on Feb. 26, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.

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