|Aubrey at Gymnastic Challenge 2000|
At 17, Aubrey Taylor has already seen a lot of change in her gymnastics career. Born in Columbus, Ohio on February 5, 1984, Taylor's family moved to Canada when she was just two years old. At age five, she entered her first gymnastics program, at the Burlington Aerialettes Gymnastics Club. After three years in Burlington, Taylor switched to Gymnastics Mississauga, where she began to compete provincial stream gymnastics. By age 10, Taylor had moved up to the national novice level, and competed in her first national championships in 1995.
Just as she was about to make a name for herself on the Canadian gymnastics scene, however, Taylor and her family moved back to Ohio, where she began a new career in the United States' gymnastics program. Training at the MidWest Gymnastics and Cheerleading Club, Taylor climbed all the way to Level 10 (one level below Elite in the U.S. system), and won the Ohio state championship in 1998. With a solid gymnastics reputation building, Taylor's family once again returned to Canada, and Gymnastics Mississauga. At Mississauga, Taylor, who holds dual Canadian-U.S. citizenship, was coached by Alex Bard and Svetlana Degteva. After one year in the National Open category, Taylor made the leap to the senior High Performance in 1999.
The year 2000 was a critical one for all athletes, with the Olympics looming, and injuries to a number of Canada's top athletes making the top contenders for the team unclear. Taylor, who was among the group of age-eligible senior athletes in Canada, was determined to make her mark, despite her limited national and international experience. At the 2000 Canadian championships, she showed her potential with a 5th place result on day two in a field that was missing several members of 1999's world championship team. A 13th place finish on day one dropped her down to 7th overall, however, but her result was good enough to earn Taylor selection to compete at the upcoming Olympic Trials. Taylor was also awarded the prestigious Sherry Hawco award for her floor exercise routine, which was choreographed by UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos.
|Gymnastic Challenge 2000|
That spring, Taylor represented her home club and her country at Gymnastic Challenge 2000, her first large-scale international competition (she had previously competed in a quad-meet with France, Great Britain and Germany). Fighting inconsistencies in front of her hometown fans, Taylor found the resolve to perform well enough for 4th place on the balance beam, against a tough field that included a number of world and Olympic medallists.
By the time of the Olympic Trials, held at Seneca College in July 2000, Taylor was soundly established among the top in Canada. With a team selection process that left room for subjectivity (two of the Olympic team members were able to be freely selected by national coach Andrei Rodionenko and his committee), all 11 Trials competitors were looking to impress, regardless of previous ranking.
Coming in as an underdog, Taylor knew she had to have the competition of her life to have a shot at an Olympic berth. The first day of Olympic Trials was a difficult one for Taylor, however, for she committed several errors, including a fall on her handspring front pike-1/2 vault. She ended the day in 11th, and would have her work cut out for her the rest of the competition. On day two, however, a much more focused Taylor performed well enough for the 7th-highest all-around score of the day, but her day one errors proved too costly, and left her in 11th, putting the Olympics out of reach.
Although she found the entire Olympic selection process stressful and exhausting, Taylor knew she had to regroup. With several years of senior competition ahead of her, and the imminent retirement of a number of the Olympic team members, she knew the next two years could produce more satisfying results. Taylor's change in mindset heading into 2001 also resulted in a change of scenery, and the 16 year-old made the decision to move back to her first gym, Burlington, to work with new coaches Dave and Liz Brubaker, who had recently made the move to Burlington from Sarnia's Bluewater Gymnastics Club.
|'01 Spring Cup|
Despite her new environment (and shorter commute to her family's Burlington home), Taylor's frustrations with gymnastics continued to grow. With a series of injuries and several bouts of pneumonia plaguing her, Taylor was burned out and reaching the breaking point with gymnastics. Taylor's exasperation continued when she was not among athletes selected to train for the 2001 world championships.
With disappointments mounting, it would have been easy, and perhaps even expected, for Taylor to walk away from the sport, or be content to bide her time until taking a scholarship to a U.S. college. Yet somehow, Taylor decided to give gymnastics one more try. Slowly, her focus returned, and so did her skills and her consistency. Her coaches began introducing new skills, and refreshing old ones that had fallen from their pupil's repertoire.
At the 2001 Elite Canada, Taylor stepped out on the floor, and at first glance, looked no different than she had over the past year, save for a short ponytail that she had grown in lieu of her usual short-haired appearance. Within a span of ten seconds, however, it was clear this was a markedly different athlete with renewed determination. Sprinting down the vault runway, Taylor threw one of the best vaults of the competition, a high, tight handspring piked front with a half twist, which earned her the third-highest vault score that day. After one rotation, Taylor was in first place. Heading to the uneven bars, typically her toughest event, Taylor might have been expected to come unraveled, but she nailed a routine that has become easy enough for her that upgrades are in the works.
|'01 Elite Canada|
During warm-ups for balance beam, the public address announcer listed the results. Taylor was still in first (with five rotations, world championship team member Jennifer Simbhudas and several other athletes were a rotation behind, and not factored into the early results). There, she hit a stable exercise (punch front, two aerial walkovers, punch front-back tuck, two back handsprings to a double twist dismount), and moved to her final event in second place, behind Simbhudas. With two severe ankle sprains over the past year, Taylor has admirably recovered most her tumbling, and she hit her triple twist, double pike, front-full-punch front, and double twist to do something that no other athlete at Elite Canada did: hit four-for-four, with clean exercises on all events.
In the end, Taylor finished fourth, just edged off the podium by 0.025, but her point was made. She was back. The 2002 competitive season could certainly be a good one for Taylor, and if her motivation and consistency are maintained, she could produce some notable results in what is expected to be a deep senior women's field in Canada.
Outside of the gym, Taylor is vivacious and outgoing. A born entertainer, she enjoys dance, and even choreographed routines for herself and several of her teammates for the professional-style Gymrock competition, held in the fall of 2001. Despite her obvious talents in this area, Taylor hopes to move into another field, sports psychology, when she is through with gymnastics. In the meantime, the Grade 12 student is talking with NCAA recruiters, and hopes to join the ever-increasing group of Canadian gymnasts in the U.S. on a college scholarship. For now, however, there is still unfinished business in Canada, and the young woman who has traveled so many miles in the sport of gymnastics seems to have a few more in her.