10.0 Spotlight - Mizuki Sato

Jan. 22, 2009

Sophomore Mizuki Sato is the featured gymnast in 10.0 Spotlight, which profiles a member of the UCLA gymnastics squad throughout the season. Sato, who hails from Fair Oaks, CA, is off to a great start in her second season, averaging 9.863 on both vault and floor and ranking in the Top 15 nationally on those events.

You have had an outstanding start to the 2009 season. To what do you attribute your improvement from last year to this year?
Thanks so much! Looking back at my freshman year, I realized that I needed to change my mindset in order to accomplish the goals that I set for myself. I learned that I can control only what I can control and that I needed to stop worrying about things outside my control. I think I wasted a lot of mental energy over what I couldn't control last year. Having a year under my belt helped because I know what to expect. And physically, all the body positioning drills helped tremendously with my gymnastics.

At the same time, the team dynamic within the gym has helped me get better. I learned a lot about what it meant to be part of a team last year, but I actually understand the true meaning of a team now. It's fun to be able to look around you and know that everyone has your back; it's very liberating, and it has allowed me to focus on the things that I can control to help the team as a whole be better. When gymnastics is fun, everything gets a little easier.

With so many freshmen on the squad this year, you're practically a seasoned veteran. What kind of wisdom have you been able to impart to your freshman teammates, and what things have you learned from your first year that you've been able to apply this year?
I remember early in the year when someone thought they had to 'prove themselves' to the coaches and the team, and it kind of reminded me of how I felt freshman year. There's no need for that mentality because then you're concentrating on the wrong thing. The fact is that we all deserve to be on the team, so it's a waste of energy thinking about 'proving' yourself.

I've definitely learned that you should be prepared for whatever circumstance possible. It's ridiculous how much of a mental sport collegiate gymnastics is. Lineup changes actually happen mid-meet, so always be prepared.

Miss Val has commented about the closeness of your sophomore class. Describe the bond the five of you have.
There aren't enough words to describe how much they all mean to me. The five of us all bring something different to the table, but we all have the same goals and the same intense drive to be as good of an individual as a whole. We understand each other extremely well, and things can be left unspoken, and we'll know exactly what that person is thinking. We're a support system for each other, and we rely on each other to keep us sane with our busy schedules haha. If I ever get to experience another connection like this in my lifetime I'll be surprised.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge in training or in competition, and what steps do you take to try to conquer it?
I've learned that if I overthink something, that's when I'm in trouble. I have to make sure to take one skill at a time and stay in the moment. If I'm having one of those days, I'll ask one of my teammates to give me one thing to concentrate on, and it usually does the trick.

How did you get started in gymnastics?
A lot of my friends from kindergarten took gymnastics classes, so whenever they had birthday parties, it would be held at the gym. I guess I got hooked, and ever since then, I haven't looked back. Also, when I was a baby, my parents would take me to the local park and let me hang on the bars, so I guess even from a young age I was meant to be a gymnast.

What was your most memorable gymnastics moment?
Receiving the opportunity to come to UCLA and contribute to the team has been by far my most memorable gymnastics moment. I'm thankful for every day that I can go into the gym and be part of an amazing team.

What was your best blooper moment in the gym or in competition?
It was on floor at the Washington dual meet my freshman year. I had kicked over on my bridge on accident and ended up dancing around aimlessly, went too early for my last pass, fell, stood there and realized I still had a while before my ending, so I did a full turn and stumbled. I then realized that I couldn't just do a simple turn, but I was so mortified that I did another turn, stumbled again and finally ended my routine. I can laugh about it now, but I was absolutely horrified at the time.

What are your interests outside of gymnastics?
I really love to read whenever I get a spare moment. I'll pretty much read anything as long as it looks interesting. I'm also kind of a nature/outdoor junkie and love to be outside whether I'm at the beach or up in the mountains. I've gone backpacking with my family a couple of times in the mountains near Tahoe, and I also love to ski (although I haven't gone in a long time due to the unfortunate fact that gymnastics season clashes with ski season). I'm also into photography, so I usually have my camera on me whenever I'm outdoors.

What are you studying in school and what are your career aspirations?
I'm currently a Physiological Science major, and I've always been interested in medicine. If I decide to go the med school route, I would want to become an orthopedic surgeon. Ideally, I would want to work with the organization Doctors Without Borders and travel. I'm also interested in pursuing a Global Studies minor and getting some practical knowledge out of it.

What has been your favorite class at UCLA so far?
I've actually enjoyed a lot more classes than I thought I would, but my favorite would definitely have to be my Introduction to Global Studies that I took this past quarter. It was really interesting learning about how interactions between global actors affect so many features of society. It was really eye-opening.

Lightning round:
Nickname
Zuk, Bam, Pizookie, Florence, basically anything goes

Favorite movie?
Lion King, of course!

Favorite Lion King song?
'Hakuna Matata'

Can't-miss TV show?
Friends and Lost

Favorite book?
The Hot Zone

Favorite event to compete on?
Definitely floor

What quote or saying do you live by?
Stay in the Moment

If you could trade places with any member of your team, who would it be and why?
Chris Waller - I really want to see how it would feel like to have his crazy amount of energy haha.

What are you obsessed with?
I love love love country music

Favorite singer/band/artist?
Brooks & Dunn

Favorite thing to do in LA?
Getting dressed up and going to dinner with friends

Describe yourself in one word.
Fierce

Describe your team in one word.
Bought-In

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