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The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

From Tuscaloosa to Paris: Luisa Blanco’s journey to Olympic gold

CW/ Natalie Teat
Alabama gymnast Luisa Blanco performing her floor routine against LSU on Feb. 24, 2023, in Coleman Coliseum.

The University of Alabama is not known just for its football program. Alabama’s very own gymnast, Luisa Blanco qualified to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics for Team Colombia. This summer, she will travel in hopes of winning a medal for the first time in team history in the artistic gymnastic category. 

Blanco is a graduate student and has achieved many things while being a part of the Alabama gymnastics program. She was the 2021 NCAA balance beam champion and helped lead the Crimson Tide to win its 10th overall SEC championship team title in 2021. She is a four-time SEC champion in all-around, vault, uneven bars and the balance beam. In 2021, she was named SEC Gymnast of the Year, and the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association Region 1 Gymnast of the Year.  

Her achievements, though, started long before college.  

She made her first elite gymnastics debut in the 2017 World Olympics Gymnastics Academy Classic, where she had the highest score of the competition on the balance beam. She then competed at the 2017 U.S. Classic, where she tied for the all-around bronze medal with Kalyany Steele. After graduating high school one semester early, Blanco joined the Alabama gymnastics team in January 2020.  

In 2023, Blanco announced her return to elite gymnastics and started training.  

While collegiate events are the same as Olympic events, it does not mean the mentality stays the same. Blanco wanted to make the competition stage feel more like home, so she decided to think about her teammates at Alabama.  

“If anything, I was able to pull moments of my collegiate career because when you’re out there on the elite stage, you’re by yourself and it’s a every-man-for-himself mentality,” Blanco said. “So, I was trying to change that narrative up a bit and bring some more fun to the elite world, and I think I did that.”  

Competing at the Olympics is an athlete’s dream, and it takes a lot to get there. 

Gymnasts must compete in various national and international competitions to earn points and rankings. For different countries there are different competitions athletes can compete in. In the U.S., there are the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, the American Cup and the U.S. Classic, but these differ from what Blanco competed in. 

Blanco first competed at the 2023 Colombian Championship, where she won the all-around and uneven bar titles. She was then selected to represent Colombia at the 2023 Pan American Games, where she helped her team place fifth. Blanco qualified for the all-around final,al where she finished eighth, with a score of 50.099. With this, she secured her spot in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games as the highest-plac placing athlete.  

“It’s a really full-cir circle moment for me,” Blanco said on qualifying for the Olympics.  

Blanco will be the fifth gymnast coming from the Crimson Tide gymnastics program to compete at the Olympics, and her teammates give all their praise for the accomplishment. While Blanco is training in both collegiate and elite gymnastics, her teammates know she is always there for them.  

First-yea year gymnast Chloe LaCoursiere applauds Blanco for her ability to maintain a balanced schedule with training for the Olympics, competing in Alabama gymnastic meets and being a full-time student.  

“Lui’s done just an amazing job with it,” LaCoursiere said. “She says that we’re there for her, but she’s there for us every moment.” 

Olympic gymnast Jade Carey, who decided she wanted to continue her career in both elite and collegiate gymnastics, wanted to change the narrative that gymnasts must choose between one or the other. Carey represented team Team USA at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and won gold in the floor exercise. Not knowing if she would return to the Olympics, she decided to continue her career at Oregon State. However, she came back to elite gymnastics and became one of two U.S. Olympic female gymnasts to return to elite competition following an NCAA season. 

“I definitely hope to be an example to other gymnasts out there that you can do both,” Carey said. “You can do anything that you put your mind to. There doesn’t have to be one way or the other anymore. Just do what you want to do and what makes you happy.”  

Blanco will be competing for Team Colombia in the 2024 Paris Olympics. The Olympics will take place July 26-Aug. 11, and the artistic gymnastics category will take place July 27-Aug. 1 and Aug. 3-5. 

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