ATHENS — Brittany Rogers won’t be working out in Stegeman Coliseum this fall. And much to her chagrin, she won’t be going to the Georgia-Alabama football game to cheer on her fellow Bulldogs.
She won’t even be in the United States.
Rogers, a senior on the Georgia gymnastics team, has caught the opposite of ‘senioritis.’ She is using her fall semester to step away from school and train in Canada, her home country, for the World Championships. The goal: A trip Rio in 2016.
“I’ve had the dream of going to a second Olympics ever since the last one ended,” Rogers said.
Rogers competed for Canada in the 2012 London Olympics, where Canada qualified for the team final and she qualified for the vault final, placing seventh overall. Her coach, David Kenwright, was with her through the London games and is currently coaching her in Calgary.
The World Championships are still two months out, and Rogers still technically has to qualify for them. The Olympics are still a year away. Kenwright listed Rogers’s focus and intensity as two tools that will help her in her preparation for Rio.
And he wasn’t shy about his expectations for her.
“She’s a strong athlete physically. She’s a strong athlete mentally,” Kenwright said. “My instincts and my experience tell me that if Brittany can stay healthy she could really contribute something significant to team Canada in the World Championships.”
Though she has the experience and now the atmosphere for success, she still has hurdles to overcome.
At 19, Rogers was the second oldest Canadian gymnast competing in London. Now 22, Rogers would be 23 at the far end of the Bell curve for the Rio Olympics.
So not only does Rogers need to reschedule her 22-year-old life to train, she has to prepare her 22-year-old-body for the rigors of that.
“The demands on your body are really hard,” Kenwright said. “A double back on floor, for example, is 16 times the force of gravity on your body every time you do it. So, that’s a lot of risk on your body and a lot of strain.”
With the help of nutrition education and her collegiate training experience, Rogers doesn’t see her age as a hindrance.
“I feel like there’s still more in me,” Rogers said. “A lot gymnasts kind of use their collegiate years to kind of retire and kind of mend off of gymnastics. I didn’t feel like that was the case for me. I felt like I got stronger.”
Rogers is working full-force toward her dream. She spends upward of 30 hours a week training, which includes four two-a-days. She coaches younger girls’ practices in the evenings.
Meanwhile, her Georgia teammates in Athens are practicing a maximum of 20 optional hours a week..
“I don’t think I have ever trained this hard in my life,” Rogers said.
Near-exhaustion is not the only difficulty.
“I miss my team so much,” Rogers said, “and I miss Georgia. I miss the atmosphere down there. The fall, the football games, it’s all so much fun. The freshmen have come in to the gym and started training, and I definitely feel like there’s a wall there that I can’t really jump over. It’s not like I can be there to introduce myself and be making inside jokes and all that.”
Just before Rogers left for Canada, she spent her last month of gym time on American soil training with her teammate and Gym Dog “little sister,” Morgan Reynolds.
The two keep in contact via text, Snapchat and FaceTime. But aside from the occasional visit to Athens, there are some parts of fall that Reynolds knows Rogers just won’t get to experience.
“Fall, I feel like, is the time where we’re spending a lot of time together with like football games and we have a little more free time on the weekends without having meets every week,” Reynolds said. “So now is the time when we build relationships with each other and go places, making memories, stuff like that. So I’m sure it’s hard that she’s missing out on all of that.”
Rogers will return to Georgia in the spring and compete for Georgia in between World Championships and Olympic qualifiers—presuming she makes the Gym Dogs’ starting lineup.
“She’s the type of person that can be gone for however long and then come back and it’s like she never left,” Reynolds said.