NCAA Video Vault: Peng Peng Lee’s incredible perfect 10 clinch championship


As the chalky dust began to settle ahead of the final routine of the 2018 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships, defending champion Oklahoma, coached by Maggie Nichols, had just completed an excellent rotation of the uneven bars, sat at the top of the standings and was in position to bring home his third straight NCAA title.

However, on balance beam, UCLA’s Peng-Peng Lee was ready to kick off her routine as the last gymnast capable of altering the team’s podium. Already under the added pressure of needing a hitting routine to overcome the 9.275 a teammate scored with a pinfall, Lee would also need a near-perfect 9.975 to pass the Sooners. She had been perfect on balance beam earlier in her career, but no routine would be more important than this, the last routine of Lee’s gymnastics career.

The set up

Heading into national championship weekend, UCLA was ranked third in the nation behind No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 2 LSU. While the Bruins were undoubtedly title contenders, the Sooners, the fifth-seeded Tigers and Florida Gators got the majority of public votes when predicting who would lift the trophy.

But one of the biggest reasons the Bruins could never be counted out was their impressive roster, arguably one of the best in NCAA history. UCLA had two Olympic gold medalists in Kyla Ross and Madison Kocian – the first Olympic champions to ever compete in collegiate competition – as well as future viral video stars Nia Dennis and Katelyn Ohashi and fan favorite Peng -Peng Lee. Lee was a favorite to represent Canada at the 2012 Olympics before injury ended her career as an elite gymnast.

“We knew we had a championship shot,” Lee said. “I think as a team, as a whole, we had that championship mindset from the start of the season. We were all super connected in the sense that we really wanted to enjoy the company of the each other and do it for each other.

UCLA was also led by Valorie Kondos-Field, better known as “Miss Val”. The then-head coach, a six-time NCAA championship winner, had tasted titles before and knew exactly what it took to do so again, especially with such a talented roster.

The moment

After the Bruins cruised through their semifinal to comfortably secure a spot on the final day of competition, they opened their championship day with average rotations on floor and vault and found themselves well off the lead at halfway through the competition.

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“In the first two events we were a bit out of pace, we got distracted, we were staring at other girls from other teams, and halfway through the event on our bye [rotation], we really brought it together as a team,” Lee said. “What champions do is we don’t give up competing because we’re not necessarily going to win. It was having that championship mindset to do it for each other and finish on a good note.

The Bruins bounced back on the uneven bars, with Lee hitting perfection for the first time in his final career bars routine to help UCLA score a tenth more on the event than any of their five competitors and to give impetus in its favour. Heading into the final rotation, the Bruins were back within striking distance of the Sooners.

Routine

When Lee saluted and took her last soothing breath before stepping onto the balance beam, she had no idea UCLA was still in contention for the title. Having “got it into her head” that this was her last routine, she opted to forego watching her teammates and “vocalize” her nerves with Miss Val.

Lee was on a mission to perform his effective yet challenging routine to the best of his abilities by keeping his mind “simple” and clear.

Lee rode with his fan-favorite talents.

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Beautifully balanced in its aerobatic series of rear spring-loaded pike.

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Quickly spun through his double turn to split the jump combination.

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And, more importantly, glued its side antenna landing to the disassembly of the full twist rear layout.

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Celebration

When training for UCLA, the emphasis was that a routine wouldn’t get a perfect 10 unless it looked like a perfect 10.

“It felt like a perfect 10 routine,” Lee said of his career-ending beam routine that earned the acclaimed score and won the NCAA championship for the Bruins for the seventh time in history. from the program.

An excruciatingly long wait ensued from the moment Lee stuck his feet to the mat on the outing to the moment his 10.0 flashed on the scoreboard, but the Bruins celebrated his perfect score accordingly, even though they were unaware that he also landed them a championship.

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“At that point, we were all so happy the Bruins got another 10. It had nothing to do with the championship, which is really funny,” Lee said. After double and triple checking the scores, the UCLA coaching staff made sure to let their athletes know that they were now national champions.

Still amazed at how she ended her career with a pair of perfect scores and a tag team title, Lee said she didn’t understand at all until she saw the championship trophy.

“I was so happy to end my career this way, that I did it for my teammates and was able to share this moment with my teammates,” Lee said. “It was amazing to be part of the bubble and the Bruin family at that time.”

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