IOWA CITY, Iowa – If you have never been to a University of Iowa gymnastics meet inside Carver-Hawkeye arena, you have never seen one of the most energetic, supportive, and selfless gymnasts. Gina Leal, a senior from Glastonbury, Connecticut, has been that teammate since she started her gymnastics career at age six.
“I fell in love with gymnastics when I was ten years old, and at first, it was because my sport was different from my friends,” Leal said. “I noticed I could do things other people couldn’t and found that to be rewarding.”
In 2014, Leal was named all-conference, all-state, and All-New England, and won vault at the Western National Championships in 2012. She earned 2012 State Championship titles in vault and bars, and was the runner-up on floor and all-around.
“I loved the feeling of getting a new skill and getting better every day,” Leal explained. “As I got older, I learned to love performing and showcasing my strength, talent, and personality through the sport.”
Continuing her gymnastics career, she was drawn to Iowa, “It is a great school, great athletics, and great mentors,” Leal said. “I just saw myself succeeding and taking my life to the next level, and I knew Iowa was going to do just that.”
Gina joined the gymnastics program in 2017, “I was immediately drawn to the program because its culture is one you rarely come across,” Leal said. “This program is that of genuine care and establishes an environment that allows girls to express authentic emotion and passion for what they do.”
In 2018, Gina tallied a season-high 9.900 on floor and finished seventh at the NCAA Regionals (April 7). She also earned the Sportsmanship Award at the Big Ten Championships.
Leal will be graduating this spring with a degree in computer science, with hopes to own her own technology company or to be a free-lance tech-consultant while designing and creating applications.
“Being a GymHawk has taught me how to problem-solve, how to be held accountable and, how to hold others accountable,” Leal said. “It has taught me to be relentless and to never quit or give up on my goals.”
Advice from Gina Leal for future GymHawks:
- Be grateful for the opportunity.
- Be yourself and don’t try to be perfect.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- The little things are what make the big things happen.
- Not every day will be perfect, focus on getting one percent better every day.