Everyday Champion - Laura-Ann Chong
Jan. 26, 2009
Keith and Karen Chong identified early on that they had a gymnast in daughter Laura-Ann Chong. What gave them that indication when she was just a two-year-old?
“I used to run around the house and climb up and down on things,” Laura Ann said. “My parents enrolled me in a gymnastics class, and I loved it.”
And excelled at it. In fact, she is so adept at the sport that she was the second alternate for the Canadian National Team, her home country, for the 2004 Olympic Games.
“I had the opportunity to travel to France and Ukraine with the (Canadian) team to compete and it was a wonderful experience,” Chong said. “It was awesome to be a part of an elite program.”
Chong is part of another elite program at Oregon State as the No. 11 ranked Beavers and perennial NCAA Championships participant prepares for this Friday’s showdown against rival and No. 2 Utah at legendary Gill Coliseum. She has become a standout on the balance beam and uneven bars.
“I love flying around on the bars everywhere,” Chong said. “On the beam when you make your routine you feel like you have accomplished something great.”
Chong has already accomplished many great things on and off the apparatus’ and this Coquitlam, B.C. native has more goals in her sites.
More with Laura-Ann Chong…
Q. Describe Laura-Ann Chong in a nutshell?
A. I’d say I’m an outgoing person who is really easy to get a long with.
Q. Have your parents been supportive of your endeavors?
A. They have been very supportive; they come to every home meet. When I was on the Canadian National Team they always sent me emails and letters. They have always been there for me.
Q. Why should fans come see you and your teammates perform?
A. Because I love to perform for them; I love to show off what I have been working on it. Overall, our team is amazing. We have a lot of energy and we love to perform.
Q. What should fans look for to know if you are having a good routine?
A. It’s an amazing feeling when you are `on.’ You know I have made my beam routine when I have a huge smile on my face. That means I’m having a great time. Same goes for the bars, I will have a huge smile on my face after the dismount; I know that I have nailed it.
Q. What’s it like competing in legendary Gill Coliseum in front of the OSU fans?
A. Competing in Gill Coliseum is amazing because you can feel the energy from the fans. Our fans have a great appreciation for gymnastics; they are very knowledgeable about the sport. It doesn’t matter if you are the home team or the away team, they appreciate great performances.
Q. If you could address the Gill Coliseum fans what would you say?
A. I would tell them that it means a lot to the team that we have great fans and it makes us feel very special to be able to perform for `Beaver Nation.’
Q. Describe how the team gets ready for meets on the night of competition?
A. We have a few rituals that take place; a few cheers. We have one we call `yo baby yo’ and we kind of echo back and forth. We growl a lot after warm-ups to release some of the tension and get ready for the meet.
Q. Describe how gymnastics has enabled you to travel around the world?
A. Part of the perks of being on the national team is that I traveled to Europe a couple of times and experienced the different cultures. When we were in France I stayed with a family, which was definitely an eye opener. I have been really fortunate to be able to travel internationally at such a young age.
Q. What is it like competing for head coach Tanya Chaplin?
A. Competing for Coach Chaplin is a great honor, considering how well she did in her college career (6-time All-American) – and for Michael (Chaplin) as well. It has been a bonus for the team to be able to learn from their experiences as a competitor. They both know what it takes to compete at the next level and they know how to push us to achieve – it’s been a terrific experience.
Q. How are the gymnastics coaches supportive outside of the sport?
A. Our coaching staff is very supportive of what we do outside of the gym and are very flexible in working with us if we are having difficulties academically, for example. They know how to help us or help us get assistance.
Q. Why does physical therapy interest you professionally?
A. My goal is to be a physical therapist for a national sports team. I want to be able to travel with a team, maybe to the Olympics, and help the athletes perform the best that they can. I’ve been an athlete for all my life and have had a lot of treatments myself, so I have a lot of respect for physical therapists.
Q. How did you end up at Oregon State?
A. I actually committed to attending another school my junior year in high school (Charles Best Secondary) but that ended up not going very well, so my club coaches and Coach Chaplin started communicating and that’s how I ended up here.
Q. What has surprised you most about the campus?
A. What has surprised me the most is how much of a college town Corvallis is. Corvallis is really supportive of the University, and the residents are really aware of what is going on at OSU. It makes you feel like you are a celebrity in this town, due to the support.
Q. Would you recommend OSU to your younger friends or another athlete considering the school?
A. Definitely. Some of my old teammates have asked me what I thought of OSU – I tell them it’s like a big family, rather than a huge campus where you really don’t see anyone. It’s really nice to have that connection with people with other student-athletes and just regular students that you see walking across campus.
Q. What is your involvement in community service on campus?
A. I’ve made it a goal for me this year to be more involved in community service. I’ve become a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) this year. I have also joined a group on campus called the Asian Pacific American Student Union and we do community service projects as well.
Q. What does it mean to you to have a full-ride scholarship?
A. A full-ride scholarship to an American university is very important to me and has been a lifelong dream of mine. It’s amazing to be here at Oregon State; it’s a great opportunity. I know how hard I had to work to earn a scholarship and how hard I have to work to keep it. My family is very proud of me. (Note: -- She was a member of the Arthur Ashe Jr. Scholar Team and Pac-10 Academic Second Team in 2008)
Q. Are you looking forward to this week’s meet against Utah?
A. It will be a really exciting event. I have an ex teammate (Gael Mackie) at Utah, so it will be really nice to see her again. It’s going to be a great show for our fans and good for our team to see how we compare with them.