Oregon State
Oregon State's Olivia Vivian

Amy Farnum, NCAA.com

After years of competing at an elite level in athletics, even the most positive of individuals can get a little burned out.

Olivia Vivian found the spark needed to reignite her passion for gymnastics across the Pacific Ocean at Oregon State University.

Vivian, a native of Perth Australia, was a member of the Australian National Team that competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, helping her country finish sixth in the team competition. It was an experience she’ll never forget, but yet one that also stole her passion for gymnastics.

“After 11 or 12 years of elite gymnastics, it wears you down,” said Vivian. “You get into the same routine every day. I lost that love for my sport.”

Soon after Beijing, Vivian headed to Oregon State to make the transition into a student-athlete in collegiate gymnastics. Although she struggled with injuries and illness which allowed her to compete in only eight meets as a freshman, Vivian began to remember why she was a gymnast.

“After my first year at OSU, it reignited my love for gymnastics,” said Vivian. “I loved performing again like I used to when I was little.”

Vivian really enjoyed the support of her coaches and teammates, and what a close-knit group of gymnasts they were.

“The whole atmosphere and the way collegiate gymnastics works is completely different than anything I’ve experienced in Australia,” said Vivian. “I’m so grateful I’ve had the opportunity to do this.”

“With our sport specifically, you’re always competing on an individual level,” said OSU head coach Tanya Chaplin. “In this setting, you’re training day in and day out with these young ladies. They know the hardships they go through and help each other push through those hard times and celebrate the good times. You truly learn what it is to be a part of team sport, and that is something that is new to so many gymnasts in our sport when they come in as freshmen.”

Refreshed, Vivian headed back home to Australia after her first year at OSU. That summer, the Australian Nationals were in her hometown and Vivian went to watch.

“I remember sitting there thinking to myself that I could be out there, competing and doing what I love,” said Vivian. “I made it a goal of mine to make sure the next year when I went back home that I was competing (at nationals).”

Following the conclusion of the 2010 season, Vivian began training for Australian Nationals with the help of her collegiate coaches. She wanted to add vaulting to her repertoire in order to become an all-arounder.

“(Associate head coach) Michael (Chaplin) was really helpful with my vaulting,” said Vivian. “I didn’t do the kind of difficult vault that would have boosted my score way up – I just did enough to qualify and be an all-arounder. Before college, my beam was always really shaky and it made me really nervous and I didn’t like it. Tanya Chaplin is an incredible beam coach and she taught me how to be consistent and stable, and that is definitely what helped me win the beam down in Australia.”

Vivian also used some of the more dynamic skills she picked up in the States in her routines in Australia.
“My floor routine was very different from the stuff you normally see,” said Vivian. “I had AC/DC mixed with music from Iron Man. I love performing the floor and entertaining the crowd, and I made that my main focus.”

The changes, and incredible hard work, boosted Vivian to capture the all-around and balance beam titles at the Australian Level 10 National Championships, which were held last July.

“It was really fun for her to go back home and achieve those things,” said Chaplin. “It has boosted her confidence level to know that she can achieve anything she sets her mind to. She makes the most of that each day, and does everything she possibly can, even when things do not go exactly the way she wants. That’s a true sign of success – she keeps learning from how well she does, as well as her mistakes and using those to benefit her gymnastics and her life overall.”

Vivian has started the 2011 season on fire, especially on the bars. She ranks fourth in the nation with a 9.900 average on the bars, and has won individual titles on the event in three of her first four meets, including the Pac-10 Showcase in which she posted a then-career-high of 9.950. Vivian followed up that performance with an almost perfect 9.975 in the Beavers’ defeat of Ohio State.

“Because of a knee injury, I had to stop vaulting and I got to train extra bars, which helped my quality and I added a couple new skills to the routine, which has helped,” said Vivian. “Everyone has just trained their backsides off this fall, and it is showing. The scores are coming from having such an amazing bar lineup that sets me up for (good scores). It’s a total team effort.”

Oregon State is ranked seventh overall nationally, and sits second on the bars behind No. 1 Florida.

“We have an incredibly talented team this year,” said Vivian. “The Beavers are in it. We always have a goal to be national championships, and we’re going to go all out to do it. I’m really excited to see how far this team goes.”
The Beavers will host defending NCAA champion UCLA on Jan. 28 for the program’s annual Pink Out meet. The 2011 meet marks the sixth time Oregon State has teamed up with The Corvallis Clinic to help raise money and awareness for breast and cervical cancer.