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Australian GymCat finds second home at Arizona

Jose Toro | The Daily Wildcat

UA gymnast Maddi Leydin salutes the judges after completing her routine on the uneven bars during the UA v California meet on Jan. 26 in McKale Center.

Being far from home can be tough for any college student, but having a team that feels like family makes it easier to work hard, keep moving and follow your dreams.

With no college sports in Australia, Arizona GymCat Maddi Leydin knew UA was the perfect school for her. 

“It has a lovely campus, great weather, and I liked the feel of the team here,” the junior said. “I wanted somewhere that could be my home away from home, seeing as it’s so far from Australia, and Arizona and the U of A has definitely become that.”

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For an athlete whose whole life is gymnastics, getting hurt can potentially stop her from achieving her dreams. Her biggest injury, a fracture to her navicular bone in her foot, resulted in her missing some big meets and having a surgerythat caused her to miss multiple months.

“Throughout the comeback process it is always hard to find motivation, but gymnastics is something I love, and I knew I had more to prove, so I persisted and came back stronger a year later and made the World Championship Team,” Leydin said.

UA gymnast Maddi Leydin performs her routine on the balance beam during the UA vs Stanford meet on Jan. 18 in McKale Center.

In 2015, Leydin represented her state and her country on the Australia’s national gymnastics team. She said her greatest experience was wearing green and gold for her team and traveling around the world to compete. She began doing gymnastics when she was 6 years old. By the time she was 10, she was practicing 32 hours a week while also attending school.  

After going to the World Championships, she decided to take a different path and look into college gymnastics. She committed to Arizona in April of 2016 and started school that fall. 

“College gymnastics has brought out the best in me. I love the real team aspect of it. The celebrations and support I get from my teammates, coaches and fans is incredible, the amazing facilities and all the resources we have for managing school and practice. It is something I feel proud to be a part of,” Leydin said.

Beyond gymnastics, she is proud of herself for having a good balance of school, practice, social life and family. She said she needs these different outlets to help her deal with stresses of elite and college gymnastics and to help her develop her identity in and out of the gym.

Gymnast Maddi Leydin performing her floor routine at the Gymnastics Showcase at the University of Arizona. Leydin came to the U of A from  a school in Australia

Leydin embodies what it means to be a student-athlete, as she was named to the Pac-12 All-Academic First Team 2018, one of just two members of the group from UA. Her 3.94 GPA ranked fifth out of the 12 student-athletes — teammate Courtney Cowles also made the list with a 4.00. 

Although Leydin said she does miss her family and friends back home, she has great friends out here and a team that feels like family, noting that she feels more independent going to school in the United States. 

“Figuring things out for myself has been an awesome journey,” she said. “I’ve definitely matured and developed my own identity while being over here for the last three years, and I will most definitely leave here a better person.”

According to Leydin, she decided to major in psychology with hopes of pursuing a career in sports psychology.

Her goal is to help athletes deal with nerves and mental blocks and balance life, athletics and the stresses that come with being an athlete. 

On the mats, Leydin has played an important role for the GymCats, as she competed in 10 out of 11 events last season, setting career-best marks on the beam, bars and floor routine. This year, the Australian set a team-high score of 38.475 during UA’s win over No. 12  Cal. 

“I’m so glad I pursed this path of college gymnastics. It has been an amazing experience to compete all over the U.S with a great team, in front of awesome crowds and for a fantastic school,” Leydin said. 

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