At 7 years old Christine Nguyen was too scared to execute a cartwheel on the high beam.
Since then" she has gone on to train alongside Olympic medalists and stood alone as 2008 EAGL Gymnast of the Year.
But those reasons are not why she stands out among the gymnasts in Derek Galvin's 27-year coaching career.
""Strength of character" that's what grabs hold of me Galvin said. We've had ladies who were not the best competitors" but they were phenomenal young women.
""With Chris-tine"" it happens to be a combination of both.""
She finished last season with the individual all-around title at the EAGL Championship and finished first place all-around in six of the Tar Heels' 11 meets.
""I think that it would be a challenge for her to repeat what she did last year" Galvin said. But her training is going well" and she's competing well. It could conceivably happen.""
Nguyen" a junior has placed first in four events and twice all-around in her three meets this season.
But for all her accolades and accomplishments Nguyen did not begin her gymnastics career out of any recognizable affinity toward tumbling" dancing or flipping.
""I was bouncing all over the place"" Nguyen said. My teacher recommended that my mom put me into a sport because I was always getting in trouble.""
Her parents found a solution" and Nguyen found her passion.
At 14 she enrolled in the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in Plano Texas where she practiced more than six hours a day.
She never lacked role models" practicing alongside Olympic champions Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin.
""It was definitely an unforgettable experience" she said. It helped me grow a lot" and I give a lot of credit to WOGA for where I am now.""
Nguyen came to UNC as a member of the USA Gymnastics national team. Since then"" she has developed into an anchor for the Tar Heels.
""I'm just so thankful that she decided to come to Carolina to be a part of this program"" Galvin said. She's really helped define this team.""
One such example this season was the team's meet against the University of New Hampshire on Jan. 31" in which Nguyen finished first on beam" floor exercise and all-around.
Her performance helped the team obtain its highest team score since the 2005 EAGL Championships.
""She's actually stepped up a lot more as a vocal leader" teammate Rachel Schneider said.
She's always worked hard and done her best" but she's done a really great job helping other people.""
And perhaps that is indicative of Nguyen's big goal. Ask her about her personal records" and she smiles.
Can she recall the meet when she set three of her personal bests?
Can she verify the scores?
What strikes Galvin about Nguyen has never been her numbers" athletic power or unique elegance.
It's that she is interested in being a part of something bigger.
""I want our class to be the first in school history to ever make nationals" Nguyen said. Now" that would be the best feeling ever.""
ATTEND THE MEET
Time: 6 p.m. Saturday
Location: Reynolds Coliseum"" Raleigh.
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