Gael Mackie is a Canadian Olympic gymnast who's pointing toward the 2007 Pan American Games and the 2008 Olympics. She has competed in Scotland, Belgium, France, Germany, the United States and, of course, Athens, Greece.
For much of that busy time, however, she's had an eye on the University of Utah's gymnastics program, and this week she gave Ute coach Greg Marsden a verbal commitment to sign an NCAA letter-of-intent to Utah this November.
By NCAA rule, Marsden may not comment on recruits until that signed letter is in-hand, but Mackie announced her commitment via e-mail and verified it by telephone for the Deseret Morning News on Friday.
"It's a bit early, but I just wanted to do it because I'm so sure I wanted to be at Utah," said Mackie, who lives near Vancouver, British Columbia, in Langley, and comes from a whole family of gymnasts including 1972 Canadian-Olympian father, Bill.
"I know it's the place for me. I've been following them for many years, and they just are so good at gym. They've got a great coach, good academics, good supportthe whole package that I'm looking for," Mackie said by cell phone as her mother was driving her from school to gym practice. She trains at Omega Gymnastics in Coquitlam, B.C.
Mackie wore her Utah gymnastics T-shirt to school on Friday.
"Especially the last couple of years, it's always been her goal to do gymnastics in college," said her mother, Susan, a one-time gymnast who has been to Salt Lake City in the past and approves of her daughter's choice. She said it might have come even sooner, but Gael "takes her decisions very seriously, made a careful decision."
Gael hasn't yet been to Salt Lake City but plans to come this summer or in September.
UCLA, Florida, Michigan and Nebraska are other teams that recruited her strongly, "but, of course, I chose Utah," she said. "I was so sure."
Making the decision now she may be Utah's only freshman in 2008 as the Nicolle Ford scholarship would likely be the only one available frees her to spend the summer and next season concentrating on helping Canada's team move up in world standings with a new coach.
She has only a few more courses to complete in high school but will defer to 2008 anyway as she trains toward more international competition and hopefully the 2008 Olympics. "That's what I'm going to try for. I'd just like to because I think it would be a good way to finish off my elite career, and think I could contribute to the team and improve our ranking. We have lots of goals to improve our standing."
Canada was 10th in the 2004 Olympics at Athens. Mackie competed on uneven bars, due to a knee sprain and fractured vertebrae in the months leading up to the Olympics. Both are healed now, said the likely sports-medicine major. "It was a dream come true," she said of the Olympic experience. She was also a member of the 2003 Pan Am and World Championships Canadian team.
Mackie is considered a strong all-arounder. Beam is perhaps her best event, while floor is her favorite. Her style is flexibility and good lines more than power, she said.
She moved from junior to senior national teams in 2003 and was the first since 1985 to win those national championships back-to-back.
Her brother, Owen, 19, was a national-level gymnast who recently turned to aerial skiing. Her sister, Charlotte, 12, is on the Canadian youth team."It kind of comes naturally," said Susan, though the parents purposely involved their children in other sports as well, and they all eventually chose gymnastics.
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