Peng Peng Lee
Performing at the 2010 Doha World Cup
Photos courtesy of Peng-Peng Lee for Gymn.ca
2011 Doha World Cup: 5th UN, 6th BB, 5th FX
2011 L'International Gymnix: 4th AA, 8th UB, 5th FX
2010 Elite Canada: 1st AA., 8th UB, 2nd BB, 2nd FX
2008 Canadian Championships: 3rd AA, 5th UB, 1st BB, 1st FX
2008 Pacific Rim: 2nd T, 5th AA, 2nd UB, 4th FX
2008 L'International Gymnix: 2nd T, 5th V, 1st BB, 8th FX
2007 Elite Canada: 2nd AA, 3rd UB, 3rd BB, 1st FX
2007 Jr. Pan Am Championships: 2nd T, 4th AA, 2nd V, 4th UB, 6th BB, 2nd FX
2007 Pan American Games: 3rd T, 5th AA, 8th BB, 4th FX
2007 Canadian Championships (Juniors): 2nd AA, 2nd BB
2007 USA vs the World (Houston Int'l Invit.): 7th AA
2006 Elite Canada (Juniors): 1st AA, 1st UB, 1st FX
2006 Canadian Championships (Novice): 1st AA, 2nd V, 2nd UB, 1st BB, 2nd FX
2005 Elite Canada (Novice): 1st AA, 1st V, 2nd UB, 6th BB, 1st FX
2005 Top Gym International: 7th AA
2005 Canadian Championships (Novice): 2nd AA, 6th V, 14th BB, 1st FX
2004 Elite Canada (Novice): 3rd AA, 3rd V, 9th UB, 1st BB, 1st FX
Even as a young Novice HP gymnast, Christine Peng-Peng Lee already had legions of fans the world over. There was a certain pizzazz about her gymnastics, and fans took note. In 2005 she traveled to Belgium for the prestigious Top Gym International, competing against eventual 2008 Olympic gold medallist Shawn Johnson. She returned home and had a banner year in 2006, winning the Novice division at Canadian Nationals and later Elite Canada (now as a junior). She continued to shine as a junior gymnast, winning medals at the 2007 Junior Pan Ams, Pan Ams, and home meets.
One year too young to contend for a spot to the 2008 Olympics, Lee nevertheless proved herself to be on par with the seniors. Competing under a Canadian rule allowing juniors to compete domestically amongst seniors one year early, she finished 3rd AA at Canadian Nationals in the Olympic year, winning gold on beam and floor.
After the 2008 Beijing Olympics, long-time coach Carol-Angela Orchard left Canada to marry in England. Lee's other long-time coach, Brian McVey, debated a position in Central America, but chose to remain coaching Lee privately despite the closure of long-time gymnastics program Sport Seneca. Then, Lee was diagnosed with a serious back injury. Two years passed before Lee could return to the gym, and she choose to do so under the tutelage of Kelly Manjak and crew at Oakville Gymnastics. Her first meet back was nothing short of a bang - in December 2010 she claimed the senior women's Elite Canada title!
Unfortunately, injury plagued Lee again just weeks prior to the 2011 Canadian Nationals leaving her status in question for this year's World Championships. In this exclusive, Gymn.ca caught up with Lee to discuss her continued dedication to the sport.
Gymn.ca: You were out of gymnastics for a long time with a back injury. Can you briefly describe the injury, and discuss what it was like being out of gymnastics for so long?
" The goal of going to the 2012 Olympics is what has kept me going during my hiatus. "
Lee: I was diagnosed with spondiolesthesis and spondiolysis in the L5 vertebrae. This injury is when the vertebrae in the spine slips a little past one another. Being out of gymnastics due to my injury was really hard because I wasnít allowed to do any physical activity besides my 4 exercises that the doctor had told me. Not only did my back injury effect my hiatus from gymnastics, but it also changed my lifestyle as well. I had to focus on sitting properly with good posture, picking things off the floor a certain way etc. The decision to return to gymnastics was hard because I wasnít sure if I would be able to do gymnastics again. I didnít want to injure my back any further and when they told me if I continued and my back was not stable, there was a chance of my spine hitting a nerve so that terrified me. I knew I always wanted to come back and my goals ultimately drew me back into the sport.
With former coach CA Orchard at the 2005 L'International Gymnix
Gymn.ca: What is the biggest difference training at Oakville Gymnastics compared to Sport Seneca? Are you still in touch with your past coaches Carol-Angela Orchard and Brian McVey?
Lee: The biggest difference training at Oakville compared to Sport Seneca is the equipment. Itís different because they have rod floors, fast track, and foam pits so this was really good environment to come back to training with 2 years off because my gymnastics wasnít taken to competitive equipment right away, I slowly progressed to harder and harder landings. I havenít kept in touch with Brian or C.A. a lot. I think it was hard after I moved to Oakville and C.A. had moved to England and the last time I saw Brian was when we decided that I am taking the year off so weíve sort of lost base but I would like to get back in touch again.
Gymn.ca: What was it like, competing in Doha? What kind of sightseeing did you get to do?
Lee: Competing in Doha was an amazing experience. Doha is beautiful and the culture was very unique and different then what I am used to seeing. The buildings in Doha are phenomenal and so well designed. I didnít see any two of the same buildings. The venue where I competed was incredible, they did an amazing job with the cameras, setting up the equipment and the entire competition as a whole. Travelling with Maddie Gardiner was a lot of fun and she was fun to travel with. Unfortunately she hurt her knee there but the experience was great. Some of the sightseeing I got to do while I was in Doha was go to the Sand dunes and ride a.t.vís. That was so much fun and the people from Doha organized this trip with all the athletes but unfortunately I was the only female artistic gymnast to go on this trip.
Fun in the Qatari desert, with members of the Chinese Gymnastics Federation
Photos courtesy of Peng-Peng Lee for Gymn.ca
Gymn.ca: Just a day or two before CBC was due to visit you for a profile piece for their 2011 Canadian Nationals coverage, you injured your knee. What happened, and how is the knee doing?
Lee: I was training on vault doing my new skill Yurchenko double twist and on my tenth vault my knee cap dislocated. I had landed awkwardly on the landing but also the mats were very wobbly so it was a combination of both. My knee is doing really well! I am very happy with how I am progressing we are still cautious with it but I am almost back to full training. I am doing watered down routines for trials but I am happy with where I am today.
I most definitely want to continue to compete Elite for Canada. The goal of going to the 2012 Olympics is what has kept me going during my hiatus. I am following my dream and I want to work hard and stay healthy so I can fulfill my goal to going to the 2012 Olympics in London.
Gymn.ca: What made you choose UCLA, and when will you start? What are you planning to study?
Lee: I chose UCLA because even though I had my back injury and I wasnít training Miss Val always believed that I was going to come back and do gymnastics. She has been so supportive and I didnít know if I was going to get any other offer as great as hers due to my back injury. Also, I love the atmosphere at UCLA and how the athletes get treated there, I love it. I will go to UCLA in 2012 because I want to focus on the Olympics that year. I havenít quit decided what I want to study yet and Iím hoping the year off I will figure out my career choice/path.
Gymn.ca: Please settle it once and for all: Which do you prefer, Christine or Peng-Peng?
Lee: I prefer Peng-Peng and I love using that name. I almost feel like someone completely different when I use that name. I know I made it really confusing because I like using Christine in normal such as at home, school but when I am in the gymnastics world I love using the name Peng-Peng.
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Interview conducted July 2011