Utah Utes gymnastics: Red Rocks' freshman Nansy Damianova on a roll at the right time
Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — After Nansy Damianova performed for Canada in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she had a bit of a burnout. She thought about trying for the 2012 Olympics, but after a visit to Utah, she decided to go the college route.
It's taken this Bulgarian — born in Paris but calling Montreal, Quebec, home — a little bit of time to settle in with the Utes.
She is, however, ending her freshman season on quite a roll, having shared two event titles at the Norman (Okla.) NCAA Regional on April 2, scoring 9.90s on both floor and vault, tying and setting career highs, respectively, in those events and helping Utah tremendously as it qualified for this weekend's NCAA championships in Cleveland.
The Utes leave Wednesday and will perform in the team preliminaries on Friday night.
"It's always a good feeling," Damianova said of her two event titles at the regional.
"I had obviously not a good year back home after the Olympics — I wasn't really on the top after that. So being back on top in two events in the NCAA, it was a good feeling."
"She really seems to be peaking at the right time," said Ute coach Greg Marsden, who also got a 9.825 from Damianova on bars at the regional.
She did not compete on her weaker event, beam.
"She got progressively better through the year, but she's really on fire at the end of the season, not just regionals but really over the last few weeks of the season, she's competed very well," he said.
That's not especially new to Damianova. "I guess I know how to peak a little bit," she said. "I've always been better at the end of the season, even when I was at elite level. I always used to perform better at nationals than our first meet of the season."
She also said she drew on the commotion of a six-team meet, which will be the case again on Friday.
"Being so many teams, there was so much more energy than usually. I kind of got stimulated and pumped up with more people and stuff, and there's more of a challenge, so I guess everything together kind of helped."
THE SKINNY: THE 2011 NCAA Championships will be different from those of the past. The days are different, some of the times are different, and it's the first time it's been held in Cleveland, at the Wolstein Center.
Instead of beginning on Thursday, as has been the case, the team preliminaries are now held on Friday, with sessions at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. (MT). Utah is in the latter session. The top three finishers from each preliminary session advance to the team championships the next night.
For the first time, the Super Six team finals, now held on Saturday, will begin in the afternoon instead of the evening. The Super Six will start at 2 p.m.
And the individual event finals, for the first time being held on a Sunday, will begin at 11 a.m.
There will be no live television from the event, but the delayed coverage will be shown on CBS at 1 p.m. on May 14. Live scoring and video of the meet will be available at NCAA.com
Utah has won 10 national championships, tied with Georgia — nine in the NCAA and one in the old AIAW. No other team has won more. It also is tied with Alabama for a record seven second-place finishes. Only four teams have ever won an NCAA title — Utah, Georgia, UCLA and Alabama.
LINEUP: Utah's tentative lineup for Friday's team preliminaries finds Stephanie McAllister, Corrie Lothrop and Jacq Johnson going all-around and Damianova doing three events. Lia Del Priore is scheduled for vault and floor, Cortni Beers and Gael Mackie for bars and beam, Mary Beth Lofgren for beam and floor and Victoria Shanley for vault.
Friday: team preliminaries, 11 a.m., 4 p.m.
Saturday: team finals, 2 p.m.
Sunday: individual event finals, 11 a.m.
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