Freshman keeps her emotions in check

Impressive debut last week for Breanne King

Published: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 1:10 a.m.

When Rhonda Faehn looked into the eyes of her prized freshman gymnast, Breanne King, she didn't see fear or nerves.

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Florida's Kristen Stucky lands after finishing her routine on the balance beam during the Super Six Challenge in Coleman Coliseum last Friday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

JASON GETZ/N.Y. Times Regional Newspaper Group

"When I looked at her, I knew she was going to hit it," Faehn said.

King hit all of her routines in her first collegiate gymnastics meet last Friday at Alabama. Her third-place all-around finish came in the face of an intimidating atmosphere for a freshman - a crowd of close to 10,000 at the Super Six Challenge.

King's performance has Faehn and the rest of the eighth-ranked Gators excited heading into tonight's home-opening meet against No. 16 LSU at 7 p.m. in the O'Connell Center.

"She didn't look nervous one bit," Florida junior Erinn Dooley said. "She looked so confident, so cool, calm and collected that is just amazing to see. For her to do that well in her first meet with all those people there was miraculous.

"I think it blew everyone away to see how she dealt with it."

For those who know King, it was no surprise. King's quiet, laid-back personality may have taken some Gators off guard when she arrived on campus from Vancouver, but it hasn't taken long for her coaches and teammates to embrace her calm demeanor.

"She was a little bit harder to read than the other freshmen because she is laid-back and doesn't wear her emotions on her sleeve," Faehn said. "So I was always thinking, 'Is she feeling all right?' But that's just how she is.

"But she has a calm demeanor, and that carries over into the match as well. She doesn't have that look in her eyes of nerves."

Last weekend, Faehn threw many of her six-member freshmen class into the mix. But it is King who is clearly shining the brightest.

King scored a 9.80 on the floor, a 9.775 on the vault, a 9.85 on the beam and a 9.80 on the bars for an all-around score of 39.225.

To add to the pressure, among the 9,817 in attendance were her parents, who flew in from Canada for the meet.

"I wasn't too nervous," King said. "I was really excited, and I think that helped me overcome my nerves."

Added Faehn: "It was like she had done that a million times before."

Well, close to it. King started gymnastics at age four and has been an accomplished member of the Canadian National Team since 1999. In the 2003 Canadian Gymnastics Championships' all-around, King finished fifth and also was a gold medalist in the all-around competition at the 1999 Canadian Winter Games.

"She's a very strong all-arounder," Faehn said. "She's a tremendous performer. But what caught my eye was her desire. She wanted to be a Gator, and she told us, 'This is the only school I want to go to.' Her gymnastics speaks volumes for herself."

Faehn was instantly drawn to King because, like herself, King is a tall gymnast at 5-foot-8.

"What comes with that is longer lines," Faehn said. "It's more beautiful and more appealing to the eye to look at because she has the longer lines, but at the same time it makes it more difficult because she has to be able to deal with that."

As for pressure or nerves? Well, King has already dealt with that.

"Coming away from (last) weekend, I feel much more comfortable, able to read her emotions and how she can handle pressure," Faehn said.

You can reach Brandon Zimmerman by calling 374-5051 or by e-mail at zimmerb@gvillesun.com.

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