By Jenny Peter
STANFORD, Calif. -
After spending a year away from Stanford to prepare for the London Olympics, gymnast Kristina Vaculik reflected on her experience with former teammate Jenny Peter, and talked about returning for her sophomore season.
The Olympics were among the most amazing experiences of Kristina Vaculik's life. But it does not last, and she is ready to return home to The Farm and to her Stanford teammates.
Vaculik took a year off from Stanford after her freshman season of 2011 to pursue her Olympic dream. She achieved her goal of making the 2012 Canadian Olympic team and helped it to fifth place, its highest-ever finish.
After putting college life on hold, Vaculik is returning to compete at the collegiate level, where she is looking forward to helping Stanford improve upon its fourth-place NCAA finish of last season.
"I can't wait to get back," Vaculik said. "I'm just counting the days."
Vaculik described going from the Olympics to Stanford as "never-ending excitement." She had been trying to gain an Olympic berth since 2008, enduring an elbow injury that may have cost her a spot in Beijing.
"The most exciting part of the Olympics was how it was a grand finale for me to be there, because there were so many things I had to overcome," she said. "And then actually doing well as a team, placing fifth, was more than I could ever have expected."
Overall, Vaculik was beyond happy with how the Games turned out. After falling on the balance beam during team qualifying, she was glad to have had a second chance and ended up hitting her routine during the team finals. Her uneven bars were strong on both days, and she reached her goal of completing a 1½ twisting vault, which was one of her personal highlights.
After the Olympics, Kristina geared down for two weeks to deal with class registration, student-visa paperwork, and people asking her about her time in London. Now she's looking forward to being with the team again.
"It was amazing to be at Stanford for that one year, and then it was hard this past year to not have SWG (Stanford Women's Gymnastics) there to cheer me on every step of the way," said the Whitby, Ontario native. "But I made it through and had support from my sister and family and coaches in Canada. Still, I'm looking forward to always having the support system in SWG and for always being excited about just doing gymnastics, which is a huge thing about college."
Vaculik said her feelings about the Olympics are ones of being proud and happy, yet nothing compares to being at Stanford. She missed the small things about campus life, like biking to class, eating in the dining halls, hanging out in the girls' dorm rooms, and being a young college adult again.
Now, the Olympian who helped her country to its' highest team finish is on her way "home," and can't wait to be reunited with her Stanford teammates.
Jenny Peter was a member of SWG from 2009-2012 and was teammates with Vaculik in 2011. Peter is in product management at an education technology company in the Bay Area and is receiving her M.A. in communication at Stanford.