UF GYMNASTICS

King enjoying her time at UF


Florida gymnast Marissa King competes on the Bars during a dual meet against Ball State, at the O'Connell Center in Gainesville on Friday Jan. 4.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, January 11, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 10:02 p.m.

Former British Olympian and current Florida senior Marissa King admits crossing the big pond to join the University of Florida as a college gymnast more than three years ago was something of a whirlwind experience.

“My freshman year, I don't remember anything,” King said. “I can only tell you my freshman season was a big blur because it went by so fast and I wasn't aware of anything that was going on.”

King, who competed for her native Great Britain at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, arrived in mid-year, just prior to the start of UF's 2010 season. Despite her late arrival, she won six event titles and earned four All-American honors as a true freshman.

As a sophomore, King won seven event titles capped by claiming the 2011 NCAA vault title, becoming just the second Gator and first since 1998 (Susan Hines) to do so.

Last season, she racked up 13 more event titles, including eight on the balance beam, en route to helping UF to its best season in history that included the 2012 Southeastern Conference Championship and an NCAA runner-up finish.

Now in her final year, King has grabbed the leadership reins for the third-ranked Gators, who take on No. 8 LSU tonight at 8 in Baton Rouge in their SEC dual-meet opener.

“Each year I've progressed, learned little by little and gained more knowledge,” King said. “This year, I feel like I'm going to be able to step up more and give more advice and more knowledge to the girls who aren't sure or who are a little bit nervous. Hopefully I can help them improve in the areas where they are weaker.

“I feel like I've matured and I've grown a lot since my freshman year. It's been a phenomenal road.”

It's a journey head coach Rhonda Faehn has witnessed first-hand.

“Marissa really has matured and turned into not only a spectacular student-athlete, but also a great teammate and a leader on the team as a senior,” Faehn said. “That's what we ask for as a coaching staff, to be able to see our athletes through that transformation. No doubt when she came in at midseason as a freshman she was very lost. I remember the first competition, she forgot her floor routine midway through and things that we can now laugh at. But it was overwhelming for her, coming from another country even more so.

“To see how she has just matured and taken off in this role this year, knowing that every single moment is to be treasured, is special. I hope she's able to share that with all of her teammates, especially going out on the road for this first meet, to be able to give them advice and be there as a great competitor, too.”

King's career-best marks are a testament to her talent and versatility: 9.95 on the vault, 9.925 on the uneven bars, 9.95 on the beam (three times), 9.975 on the floor exercise and a 39.65 all-around mark that has only been bested on 12 occasions in program history.

A three-time All-SEC selection, King also has endeared herself to Gator fans in what has become a mutual love affair.

“I love performing, and I love seeing the reaction of the crowd,” King said. “It's just a great experience. I will miss that so much. We have some of the best fans here at the University of Florida, and I'm going to do my very best to give them a fantastic finish.”

As for that elusive first NCAA team title?

“Last year, I definitely thought that we had it,” King said. “This year, we're going to get it.”

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