At Texas Dreams Gymnastics in Coppell, Emma Malabuyo practices the beam routine she’s done time and time again.
“I’ve been doing gymnastics ever since I was 5 years old,” Malabuyo said.
For the last eight years, the 18-year-old from Flower Mound has spent more than 30 hours a week training under the direction of coach and former Olympian Kim Zmeskal with her sights set on the 2020 Olympics.
It’s a dream that was realized Sunday at the Olympic trials in St. Louis where Malabuyo was named an alternate for the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team, a competition she entered with the sole focus of finding joy.
“It’s not about the scores. It’s not about this placement. It’s about how do you define in your own success,” Malabuyo said.
That’s because about two years ago, Malabuyo thought she might never reach that moment when she was sidelined by an injured back and a fractured tibia the next year.
“I had to take a step back and look at how I can better myself even though I’m not doing gymnastics,” she said.
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“There’s just been so many opportunities for her to take the other door, right?” coach Kim Zmeskal said.
Zmeskal, a former Olympian who competed in the 1992 Games, worked with Malabuyo through a period of doubt. In the end, the teen made the decision not to let her dreams and years of work go to waste, even when the pandemic pushed the games back another year.
“I think her maturity and her experience and our connection over the last eight seasons has really helped to make this what she wants this to be. And in turn, I’ve grown through it too,” Zmeskal said.
That’s why Malabuyo said her success won’t be determined by whether she gets the chance to compete at the Tokyo Games, but rather by her journey there.
“It hasn’t even hit me, still, that this dream, it came true and I get to go to Tokyo," she said. "And I’m just so honored and thankful that I get to be a part of Team USA."
After Tokyo, Malabuyo plans to join the UCLA gymnastics team, which she’d committed to prior to the pandemic delay.
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