Rising Star: Emma Malabuyo

Texas in general has become a mecca for gymnastics in the United States and throughout the years has produced a plethora of elite gymnasts, many going on to win World and Olympic titles. Texas Dreams Gymnastics, in particular has been a big part of the Texas gymnastics scene, producing countless numbers of top level 10 gymnasts and top collegiate level gymnasts and of course a great number of elite gymnasts. With names like Bailie Key, Peyton Ernst, Kennedy Baker, Llomincia Hall, Chelsea Davis and 2016 Olympic alternate, Ragan Smith preceding her, Emma Malabuyo is now making her mark on the elite scene as one of Texas Dreams’ newest crop of talent and one of the USA’s rising stars looking ahead towards Tokyo in 2020. Emma made her elite debut in 2015, after moving from California to Texas and went on to have a stellar 2016 season.

This Texas Dreamer started the year with a bang, being added to the U.S. National Team and travelling to Canada to represent the USA at L’International Gymnix in Montreal, Canada. At her very first international competition, Emma not only helped team USA take the gold medal as a team, she also took 3rd place AA and won gold on both the BB and FX. Her success did not stop there, she was then selected to represent the U.S. at the City of Jesolo Trophy in Jesolo, Italy. In Italy, Emma took gold on BB and silver AA, on FX and on UB. She then took 2nd AA at the 2016 Covergirl Classic, also taking 3rd on BB, 4th on VT and 5th on FX. Unable to finish competition at the P&G Championships in late June, Emma was still named to the National Team following the event and is looking to shine in 2017 in her last year as a junior gymnast.

Turning senior in 2018, Emma is certainly one to watch for that mid-quad World Championships team and the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. With gorgeous dance on floor, a clear natural ability for the sport of gymnastics, beautiful, steady balance beam work and an ability to hit routines when it counts, there is something very special about Emma. Reminiscent of a young Kyla Ross, she is sweet in nature, calm under pressure, unassuming to a certain degree but a fierce competitor and a beautiful gymnast, she is certainly one to watch and has got the same great landing positions Kyla was so renowned for.

Here, Emma talks about her 2016 season, her move to Texas Dreams, camps with Valeri Liukin in charge, the coaching philosophy of Kim & Chris at Texas Dreams and more!

 1) Firstly, congratulations on a great 2016 season, how did it feel to be added to the National Team earlier this year and then get to compete internationally?

Making the National Team this year was like a dream come true.  It happened so fast but I really appreciate all the opportunities that came with it.  I loved competing internationally and representing the USA.  It was nice to meet other gymnasts from other countries and exchange pins and key chains with them.

2) How did you get started in gymnastics and when did you realise that you had the potential to do elite gymnastics?

I used to swing on the monkey bars at the park when I was 3 years old, that’s when my parents signed me up for gymnastics.  I started competing when I was 7 and realized that I wanted to try for elite after watching the 2012 Olympics, I was 9 years old.

3) You had a big change and moved from Airbourne in California to Texas Dreams, can you tell me a little about why you made that move and how you adjusted to training at Texas Dreams?

Texas Dreams has an established elite program.  I knew that Kim and Chris had developed many elite gymnasts in the past.  I also knew they had different training groups and I wanted to be part of a group that trained towards the same goals.
The transition was difficult at first because I had to get used to more hours of training per week and it was a different type of work out. But training with the group motivated me to keep up and get adjusted quickly.

4) How has training with National Team members such as Bailie Key on a daily basis and watching your teammate Ragan Smith be named as an alternate to the Olympic team help to motivate and inspire you? 

Watching the achievements of my teammates is really inspiring.  Since I train with them, they motivate me and help me to believe that I can get there too one day.  Bailie is very focused and diligent.  We like to follow her lead during work outs.  Ragan is a go getter, she says what she wants and does it.  They both inspire me to keep working hard and not be afraid to set big goals for myself.

5) Your floor routine has always stood out to me. What is your favourite event and what was the easiest part about gymnastics for you growing up? What came naturally?

I really enjoy my floor routines because I like to dance and I like to express my artistic side through the choreography. But my favorite event is balance beam because it came the most natural to me and I get to be aggressive.  When I was younger, I was able to learn new skills quickly on beam.  I always looked forward to trying new skills and challenging myself.

6) You were unable to finish competition at the P&G Championships, can you tell me a little about that and how is your training going now?

I was really disappointed that I couldn’t finish Championships this year.  I wanted to show everything that I had worked so hard on.  I am happy that I at least got to compete my floor routine one last time there.  I really loved that routine.  I’m working on a new routine for the next season.  Thankfully I was able to recover from my injury over the summer.  Training is going well so far.

7) Kim and Chris seem to be very determined to make training and competing in gymnastics a positive experience and to prioritize the happiness of the gymnast, do you think this helps you and those at Texas Dreams succeed?   

One of the reasons I came to Texas Dreams is because I like the style and methods that Kim and Chris use in their training.  They know how to push us but they also understand the struggles we go through and they know when to go easier.  Training in a group is also helpful because it helps me get through those hard days.  Having teammates by your side, going through the same thing helps me feel better.  We also get to laugh together and cheer each other on.

8) You increased your difficulty quite significantly across all of your events, particularly on beam from 2015 to 2016, did those upgrades come easily and can we expect more upgrades for 2017?

My 2016 upgrades took a lot of work. The most challenging part of working upgrades is putting them into a routine and executing it without major mistakes.  I had been working a lot of the big skills for a long time and repeating them over and over during practice.   But it is a lot harder to execute the big skills in a routine because it takes more endurance, better timing and more effort to complete the entire routine. I have been working on upgrades for 2017 and hope that they will be competition ready.

9) You recently attended the first national team camp since the Olympics and the first one with the new National Team Co-Ordinator Valeri Liukin, how did the camp differ from the camps with Martha in charge? 

Valeri and Martha have different styles at camp.  Valeri likes for us to work on skills and new technique.  Martha’s style was to have us do more routine numbers and perfect the routines.

10) Is there any gymnast in particular that inspires you or even any person that inspires you and why?

There are many gymnasts who inspire me, especially all of the gymnasts that I go to camp with.  But I would have to say that Maggie Nichols is especially inspiring to me.  She has a positive outlook on everything she goes through in gymnastics.  She has had great times and some very challenging times, but she has never given up.  Aly Raisman is also inspiring because she is a true leader.  She works hard and takes ownership of her gymnastics. Finally, Kim Zmeskal my coach is also very inspiring because she was an elite gymnast, a world champion, an Olympian and has been through it all in gymnastics.  Every day, she shows her passion and love for the sport.  She truly understands what we go through as gymnasts.

11) Looking forward to the future, what are ultimate gymnastics goals? Is college gymnastics something you’re interested in and if so, is there any schools that you are particularly interested in?

My gymnastics goals are to keep getting better, make future National Teams and be selected for more international assignments.  Ultimate goal is to be selected for a World and/or Olympic team one day. I’m definitely interested in college gymnastics.  I do have some schools in mind right now and can’t wait to visit them next year when I am a freshman.

12) Aside from gymnastics what do you see yourself doing when you’re older? Is coaching something that interests you? 

I enjoy science so I may want to pursue a career in that field one day.  I also enjoy dance and choreography, I would love to choreograph routines in the future.

13) What in particular do you like about gymnastics, what makes it special from other sports? 

I really enjoy the skills and tricks that you do in gymnastics.  I think doing big skills is really exciting.  Even if you’ve done a skill many times, it still takes work to keep doing the skill.  This keeps it challenging and new.  That is what I love about this sport.  It will never get old.

14) A lot of gymnasts get into gymnastics because their parents were involved as kids, is there gymnastics blood in your family or are you the only one?

No one in my family has done gymnastics before me.  My parents and brother play other sports.  My younger sister just started gymnastics.

15) And finally, what has been the highlight of your gymnastics career so far, in elite or even before elite?

The highlight of my gymnastics career so far is competing at the City of Jesolo meet in Italy this year.  This was such an amazing experience because I got to travel and compete with junior and senior national team members. USA Gymnastics posted a picture of us sweeping the podium, I will never forget that moment.


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