It isn’t often the term "beast" is used in gymnastics, particularly in reference to a gymnast known for her refined skills.
But when it comes to Utah’s Nansy Damianova, that is just how her teammate Lia Del Priore thinks of her — in a complimentary way, of course.
Nansy Damianova file
Ht » 5-foot-1
Year » Jr.
Hometown » Montreal
Of note » 2012 runner-up on the floor. … 2011 NCAA regional vault and floor champion. … Has notched career highs in the last two weeks, with 9.925 at BYU and 9.9 on the bars at Georgia. … Has hit 80 of 83 routines in her career.
No. 2 Florida at No. 7 Utah
O Saturday, 6 p.m.
TV » Pac-12
"She is like this quiet little beast," Del Priore said. "She doesn’t speak much about her performances and lets her gymnastics do the talking, and she has been amazing with them."
She has been amazing and consistent, so much so that Damianova’s efforts are easy to overlook because they have been so steady.
Out of nine vault competitions, Damianova has scored below 9.8 just twice, and has hit every uneven bars routine since falling in the season opener. On the floor, she has scored 9.85 or higher every time.
In the gymnastics world, where one little mistake or brief lack of focus can result in a big deduction, Damianova has indeed proven to be a fierce competitor, even if she doesn’t get much credit.
"She is a three-event person and she isn’t that vocal or have the outgoing personality others do, so she does get overlooked sometimes," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "But I know with our fans, she is one of their favorites because we get more comments on her than anyone else. She has been remarkably consistent for us this year."
The Utes need that consistency now more than ever as they head into the most crucial part of their schedule. It begins with Saturday’s home finale against No. 2 Florida, then continues into the postseason, starting with the Pac-12 Championships on March 23.
Damianova’s performances have helped the Utes in two ways. They’ve not only produced big scores that have counted toward the team’s final marks, but her consistency has also taken the pressure off teammates to hit. That has been appreciated in a year when the Utes have had trouble on both the balance beam and uneven bars.
Damianova said she has been consistent throughout her career but that this season has been even better thanks to some tweaks to her routines and a different offseason tactic. The change in her routine came mainly on the uneven bars, where the Utes switched her dismount to one she had been using before she joined the team.
"I can do it without even thinking about it," she said. "It’s important I stick for the team, and I’m confident in that one."
The other change came in the offseason when she went home to Montreal during the summer but frequently worked on her skills. The summer following her freshman year, she made the mistake of doing too much running and not enough gymnastics.
"It has been a lot better," she said. "I reversed the training from what I did the first year, and I have been more stable."
Where the Utes could really use Damianova’s consistency is on the balance beam. However, she doesn’t compete in that event because it is the one event in which she really struggles, which comes as a mild surprise.
She might be a "beast" of a competitor to her teammates, but she is known for her refined skills, which normally lend themselves to good beam performances.
However, Damianova admits she still struggles with the event mentally, although she hasn’t given up hope that one day she can conquer her weakness and earn a space in the lineup.
"I know I can’t afford to make major mistakes, and I’ve been on and off," she said.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.