Eberle embraces supporting role

Ex-Ute now helping team prepare for championships

Published: Tuesday, April 11 2006 2:53 p.m. MDT

Former Ute gymnast Annabeth Eberle's movie opens around the country on April 21, but she hopes to be busy that night.

That's when the Super Six team finals will be taking place at the 2006 NCAA championships at Oregon State, and she's a Ute student-assistant coach. Utah qualified Saturday night as one of the 12 teams invited to Corvallis for the April 20-22 nationals but will have to finish in the top three in their session of the preliminaries to advance to the Friday-night championships.

Eberle doesn't know if there's an actual premiere party or anything but would rather be working that night anyway.

Eberle has a small part in the Jeff Bridges gymnastics film "Stick It."

If you look hard at one scene where gymnasts are doing leg lifts and push-ups, she's the one in the purple and red sports bra. "I don't know if you'll be able to see my face, but I'll be able to tell it's me," she said.

She was intended to have a bigger part. "I was supposed to have a name and a line in the movie," said Eberle, who completed her eligibility last season as just the second three-time team MVP ever, hitting 98 percent of her routines over her last two years and eight of Utah's top 10 all-time all-around scores, including ties, plus six perfect 10 event scores.

But she tore an Achilles tendon during the three weeks between movie shoots, so someone else was brought in, and she was relegated to a non-speaking spot in the movie that has oodles of gymnasts like Tim Daggett in it.

Filmmakers were going to write her injury into the movie, "but we ran out of time," Eberle said. She's in one scene on crutches.

Harder to take even than having an injury take her out of her acting debut was when she visited the set, on crutches, after having filmed just one day.

"Three days before we started filming the main part, I got hurt. When we went to the new set, it was a brand-new warehouse with brand-new equipment. It was like a little kid seeing a brand-new playground, and they couldn't even play on it," Eberle said.

Though she won't be able to see it on opening night, Eberle has already seen a preview of "Stick It." She went to see "Failure to Launch," and there it was onscreen. Also, "when you walk into the movie theater, there's a big poster of it, of Jeff Bridges and the other three girls in it," she said.

She's a little worried about the gymnastics parts seeming contrived because she knows the tricks that were used. For instance, the actresses and doubles were doing their tumbling on a beam that was a foot wide instead of four inches. The scenes were shot from a camera angle that didn't show that.

In one part, a stunt double who was a break dancer was doing headspins on the extra-wide beam. "They put down a glass plate so she could spin on her head. You see her spinning, and you're like, 'That's so cool,' " says Eberle, who knows better.

In other places, special effects made it seem that the actors were doing handspring-double-tuck somersaults. It's really an actress doing a handspring, a stunt double doing a tuck and digital imaging adding the second. Scenes were filmed on green mats so digitizing could be done, and that took some getting used to.

Last fall, she had to get used to being in the Utes' gym without being able to do anything because of her Achilles and because she was a coach, not an athlete.

"The (injury's) timing was bad. I had to take out the best from it," Eberle said. "I just thought maybe this was a way somebody was telling me to be done (with gymnastics). The hardest part was being inactive and not being able to do gymnastics."

Watching some meets was a pain. "The senior meet was kind of hard. It didn't seem like a year. It seemed like it was last month," she said of her own Senior Night. "But I'm doing better. I'm having fun now rather than wishing I could be out there."

Learning how to talk as a coach to people who had been her teammates months earlier was another adjustment. "It got easier when they told me, 'You're really helping. You know what the skill feels like.' But at first I was like, should I even say anything? Will they take me serious?"

Eberle finishes undergrad work in August and will apply for courses to become a physician's assistant. She expects to stay at Utah but will have to get a real job. She'd like to volunteer time to her old team if Marsden can use her.


E-mail: lham@desnews.com

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