Jan. 25, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. - Stanford junior gymnast and three-time All-American Eddie Penev has carried the momentum of the Cardinal's 2011 NCAA Championship team into 2012, recently posting career-highs in all-around (88.55) and pommel horse (14.100) and tying a career-high in floor exercise (16.000) against California. Born in Sofia, Bulgaria, the architectural design major sat down to discuss moving into a leadership role, the transition to college gymnastics and the journey from Eastern Europe to The Farm.
How does the team carry the tradition of winning from last season?
"Last year the team was extremely deep and we had so many strong leaders who aren't on this year's team. It took a lot of pressure off me knowing those guys were going to hit their routines and post counting scores. Despite last year's team accomplishments, there were a lot of underclassmen that had strong routines and were in that six, seven, eight position but weren't as consistent as the older guys. This year we're able to bring out those routines that are very good but didn't have a spot in the lineup last year. We have a team of great guys with the potential to achieve what the 2011 team did. Having less people, the expectation hasn't changed but our approach may be a little different because of the size of the team. We're going to have to rely on consistency in our routines and that's what I'm really focusing on. Our difficulty is lower this year but our execution should counteract the lower start values of the routines."
Has anything changed moving into more of a leadership role this season?
"Losing so many leaders, it doesn't seem like I've been forced into a leadership role. Since I arrived at Stanford I've looked up to the older guys who were here for the past few years. Now I'm trying to emulate the way they competed and train the way they did in the gym. I'm not really a verbal leader, but I try to set an example through my gymnastics and my training. I love being in a position to lead without having to change my gymnastics and as an all-around competitor I know it's part of my job to lead."
What's the biggest difference between club and collegiate gymnastics"
"Before college, in club gymnastics, there's a very individual aspect to it and there's no real sense of team. When you get to college you find out it's all about the team, you're no longer performing for an individual win but for a team win. When I go out there I know I want to hit a good routine and score well with my number one priority to put up a counting score for the team. It changed my mentality, the satisfaction I get from seeing the guys cheering and when I hit my stuff is because of my contribution to the team. I do it for the other guys on the team, I don't do it for myself anymore."
How did you make it from Bulgaria to Stanford?
"My parents were gymnasts on the Bulgarian national team and after I was born they were looking for new opportunities and came to the U.S. to coach. Over time they opened up their own gym in Rochester, N.Y. that has become very successful. Being in the gym all the time growing up ,I fell in love with the sport. My parents didn't push me into it at all; initially my dad didn't want me to get into it because he knew how hard it could be physically. I just kept up with school and gymnastics and the reason I ended up at Stanford was my realization that it offers the best of both worlds and would allow me to be the best gymnast and student I could be. When I took my official visit I loved the campus and everything about the school."
What has it been like working with the Stanford coaches?
"(Head coach) Thom Glielmi is a very good motivator, he's very straight-forward and it's motivational to hear him talk about what we're going to do this year and the confidence he has in the team. I really like showing him my gymnastics and demonstrating my routines. (Assistant coach) Brett McClure is also an amazing coach with all his experience (including a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics). It's more technical with him. If I need a correction or to change up a skill a little bit or there's a little trick slip that I'm missing, he's my go to guy for that. Having Alex Buscaglia and some of the guys from last year is a great asset to our team and has helped carry over the tradition and way of doing things from last year."