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Gymnast Racks Up Tens On The Floor — And Thousands On YouTube


When gymnast Lloimincia Hall takes to the mat for Louisiana State University, the audience knows they're in for a show.


CORNISH: Hall is dynamic and confident and going into the NCAA gymnastic championships later this month. She's got three 10.0s for her floor routine and a big online following. Joining us now to talk about Lloimincia Hall, her 10s and the wider world of college gymnastics is Dvora Meyers, freelance writer who writes about women in sports for Deadspin, Slate and other publications. Thanks for joining us.

DVORA MEYERS: Thanks for having me.

CORNISH: So Lloimincia Hall is getting huge buzz. I mean, videos of her floor routine have gone viral. Why has it gotten as big as it has and why are people kind of looking at this performance as though it's unusual?

MEYERS: I have to say it was a little surprising because this video comes from January, the first 10 she scored this season. I think it goes back to the fact that it was labeled with a 10, first of all, because the 10 in gymnastics is about branding, it's about marketing and people get really excited when they see something labeled perfect 10. She performs a different style of gymnastics that people who don't follow college gymnastics would not be familiar with.

It's very crowd-friendly and people who maybe only watch the Olympics are looking at this and are almost a little surprised. She kind of defies expectations. She's a little older. She doesn't, you know, look like a 16-year-old girl or a 15-year-old girl and so I think all of that came together.

CORNISH: So not to knock the Olympics, but it sounds like when you say crowd-pleasing you have a distinction there between the kind of performance that the college athletes are doing versus the kind of formal performance we see in the Olympics.

MEYERS: There's definitely a difference. College gymnastics is really concerned with the audience and really concerned with putting on a good show. Greg Morrison who's the head coach of Utah really pioneered streamlining the meets down to two hours so people would come and have fun and there's always something happening and it goes right down to how the girls perform.

CORNISH: And Hall is a two-time reigning floor exercise champion in the Southeastern Conference, but she and the other athletes competing in NCAA gymnastics are not the same folks that we'd see in the Olympics. Tell us kind of how those - what the relationship is between those athletes.

MEYERS: So yes, most of the athletes in the NCAA are what we would consider level 10 gymnasts so that's a level below elites. They're mostly what you're seeing are gymnasts who can do some really hard skills, for instance, two of Hall's passes in her floor routine are passes you would see in elite routines, but they'd be two of four passes with a lot of other sort of requirements thrown in.

But you do see actually some elite level or former elites in the NCAA. For instance, the 2013 NCAA all-around champion is Bridget Sloan and she competes for the University of Florida and she was on the 2008 Olympic team. She won a silver medal with the team and she was a 2009 world champion.

CORNISH: Now, the NCAA championships start April 18 in Birmingham. What kind of chance does Hall's team, the LSU Lady Tigers, have of being the champions this year?

MEYERS: They have a really good shot. Last year, they came in with a lot of momentum and they didn't do as well as they had hoped and also last year, Hall came in ranked as the top female gymnast in the country on floor exercise and didn't win. But they have been ranked at various points this season at number one and they have a lot of momentum coming off their regional win.

CORNISH: And lastly, Dvora, one positive thing I can imagine about the video is it does seem to be drawing attention to women's gymnastics. Is that fun for you?

MEYERS: It is so much fun for me, during a non-Olympic year, for people to be talking about gymnastics.

CORNISH: Dvora Meyers, She writes about elite and collegiate gymnastics for Deadspin, Slate and other publications. Thanks so much for talking with us.

MEYERS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.