Our next 20 Questions athlete first caught my attention when she won the 2017 Level 9 Eastern National All-Around Title, I knew this young lady was something special and going to be one to watch. I was absolutely correct in my hypothesis, Katya Sanders of Perfection Gymnastics in Cincinnati, qualified to her first JO National Championships as a 1st year level 10 finishing 5th in the All-Around and capturing the Balance Beam title. Katya is a stunning athlete to watch on the competition floor, her routines are filled with big skills, beautiful lines and outstanding shownmanship. You cannot help but smile and dance along to her high energy floor routine. Katya is heading into her 2nd year as a level 10, lets get to know Katya a little bit better as she finishes up her summer training and starts the journey to a 2nd JO National Championships.
How did you get into gymnastics? How old were you? I was 4 years old when I went into my first gymnastics class. I began classes because my mom was already busy running around for my older brother and sister’s sports, so she decided to conveniently throw me into the gym with my sister! (#lazinessatitsfinest) I only started to train competitively when I moved to Louisville, Kentucky at age 6, and to be completely honest, the only memories I have of gymnastics practices before then was rainbow parachute and “sharks and minnows”. (Someone please bring these back to gym practice!!!)
What is your favorite event? It changes all the time, but usually bars!
Favorite skill to train/compete? My Favorite skill to train or compete is double layout on bars.
Dream skill? My dream skill would be either a maloney-half or pak-full on bars.
What is your favorite part of gymnastics? My favorite part of Gymnastics is the feeling of achievement–whether it be finally catching that release, sticking your routine at a meet, or anything in between–is just the best. Knowing that all of the time, sacrifice, and hard work that you have put in is worth it? It feels pretty fan-freakin-tastic.
What college do you plan on attending?I’m not quite sure yet, but wherever it is, you’ll be sure to see me flipping!!
What is your favorite meet to compete at? Why? My favorite meet to compete at is any flight meet I go to is hands down the highlight of my season. It is always so much fun to travel to a new place and go around trying fun new restaurants and sightseeing with friends and family. I literally love them all, BUT if I had to choose, San Diego Classic would probably be my favorite just because California has my heart.
Biggest accomplishment in gymnastics so far? My biggest accomplishment in gymnastics so far would have to be a toss-up between my experiences at Level 9 Eastern Nationals and Level 10 JO Nationals. At Easterns, I fell on beam (my first event), but ended up doing one of my best bar routines ever and won first place all around which was crazy-unexpected and super duper exciting. However, the time that I had at last year’s JO Nationals with my Region 5 team was so much fun and just a truly unforgettable experience.
Who do you most admire in the sport of gymnastics? Many times when people are asked who they admire the most in the sport of gymnastics they answer olympic gymnasts like Simone Biles, or Nastia Liukin. But my gymnastics idol (as well as idol in several aspects of life) is my sister, Sasha. She has always worked so hard and even went on to do gymnastics on a full ride scholarship in college which is exactly what I want to do! P.S.- everyone go give her a follow @sasha_sander 😉
What is your favorite Region 5 Insider Feature or Series? I love Region 5’s “Eye on 5” series. In just a few quick minutes, I can get to know some of the best athletes in the region!
What is your go to playlist or song before meets? My go to playlist or song before meet would be anything rap.
3 Things you could not live without? Easy: family, friends, and rice.
If you could be any animal, what animal would you be and why? If I could be any animal in the world, I would choose to be a dolphin. I got to ride on one in Cancun this Summer and they always look like they’re smiling!! Plus, even though I wouldn’t be in the gym, I could still do some sick tricks.
5 Most Important or Must have Items in your gym bag? The 5 most important things in my gym bag would be money, headphones, snacks, water bottle, tape.
Do you have any pre-meet rituals or superstitions? To be completely honest, I don’t do anything too technical before meets. I run through routines in my head a bit, but for the most part, I am really just try to chill mentally. I listen to rap music for a while and once it gets close to competition time I dance a little bit to get myself hyped up.
What do you like to do outside of Gymnastics? I really like to stay busy so when I am not in the gym, one of my favorite things is to go to new places and try new restaurants/activities with family and friends! I also love to dance, go shopping, bake/cook, and play with my dog, Coconut.
Most embarrassing meet moment or gymnastics moment? Hahaha this is probably the hardest question, because anyone who knows me knows that I am one of the most embarrassing people to exist. But if I had to choose, it would probably be my flop at the quarry… It was the Summer of 2016 and my friends and I had just finished up the school year. So, one my friends decided to throw an end of the (school) year party at her house that was on the quarry and invited a lot (and I mean A LOT) of people. There were snacks, paddle boats, a water trampoline, and a cliff out back where all the boys were doing flips into the quarry. Then, one of my friends comes up to me like, “Hey Katya, you’re a gymnast. Why don’t you do a cool flip or something?!”. And well, one thing lead to another, and I wound up doing an extremely hyped up double back which ended with me completely back-flopping flat on the water. Sooo not cool and even more embarrassing being handed an ice pack while your friends are all partying, but ya know, we got it on video so it was all worth it, right?
If you weren’t a gymnast, what sport would you do or try? If I didn’t do gymnastics, I would definitely do dance and swimming.
Which athletes (any sport) do you respect the most and why?Lol umm, Matt Stonie! Anyone who can down 113 pancake in 8 minutes gets mad respect from me.
What is the most valuable piece of advice or wisdom your coach has given you?The thing about Enrique is that he is a man with much much wisdom… And thing about me is that I can get a quite stressed or frustrated from time to time. It is in these moments, that ET really helps me remember that I am capable of doing great things and that I just need to take a deep breathe and #trusttheprocess.
Bonus Question: Tell me something interesting about yourself…. I love grocery shopping; sometimes I get random urges in the middle of practice to go to Trader Joe’s and my teammates all make fun of me hahah. Also, Costco is one of my favorite places ever! (Their acai bowls are ~life-changing~.)
Check out Katya’s JO Nationals Gallery Below