10.0 Spotlight - Brittani McCullough

Feb. 26, 2009

Redshirt sophomore Brittani McCullough is the featured gymnast in 10.0 Spotlight, which profiles a member of the UCLA gymnastics squad throughout the season. McCullough has battled through injuries throughout her career at UCLA, redshirting her freshman year in 2007 after a car accident severed a tendon in her toe. She returned to competition in 2008 and was having a very successful season before suffering a season-ending Achilles injury in the Bruins' last home meet. Despite her season being cut short, she was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. McCullough came back yet again from her Achilles injury and a November ankle scope to post top marks for the Bruins this season. In her first weekend back, she scored career-highs of 9.95 on vault and 9.925 bars.

You've had more than your share of injuries in this sport. What has kept you motivated to stay with gymnastics, and what did you tell yourself during your worst times of rehab and recovery in order to stay motivated?
I definitely have had my share of injuries, but I think what has kept me motivated to stay with gymnastics is first, that gymnastics is a sport that I love. Second, I really love a challenge, and coming back from an injury is the best challenge to have! During the worst times of rehab and recovery, I just kept reminding myself of my goal and reminding myself that everything happens for a reason. It also helped to focus on the small steps and small improvements that I made; it made a difference and helped me to realize that I was still on the path to recovery.

How did you deal with having to sit out your freshman year? And did you learn anything from it that helped you the second time around when you got hurt last year?
When I first found out that I was going to have to redshirt my freshman year, I was devastated, but I had to soon bring myself back to knowing and realizing that everything in life, good or bad, happens for a reason. Sitting out my freshman year taught me more about how gymnastics is a team sport and how you can help and contribute to your team by doing more than gymnastics. It also helped me to be more patient and learn my body as I went through my injury last year. I think the biggest thing I have learned from all of my injuries is patience.

What was going through your mind before your first full floor routine at the last home meet? You looked very emotional both before and after your performance.
Before my first full floor routine at the last home meet, I was so thankful that God brought me back onto the floor to compete again. I remembered all of the hard work that I put into coming back, and it hit me that it all finally was coming together. I was just very thankful and felt very blessed to be able to compete again.

Your floor routine gets a huge reaction from the crowd. Do you notice the reaction while you are performing it? Was this routine something Miss Val came up, or did you collaborate with the choreography? How did the runway walk come about?
I do notice the reaction that I am getting from the crowd, and to be honest, it makes me perform and use my expressions even more. The choreography for me was a lot of fun to come up with. It is always fun to practice it and even more fun to compete it. Miss Val chose the music and explained to me her vision for the routine. Then we both put our heads together to put the routine together. There were parts that I took from some dances that I did in church, and then we listened to the music and started dancing and putting things together. It was a lot of fun. Miss Val choreographed the runway walk. I figured out the part right before it, and then she took it from there.

Are you planning any upgrades to your floor routine as you start to come back from your injuries?
I do plan to upgrade my routine. I have started to work my full-in again and hope to put that in soon, and I also just started doing front-full front lay-out for my middle pass on Tuesday. I think that both of those are definite possibilities.

What is it like having your sister Brianna on the team with you?
I absolutely love having my sister on the team with me. My sister and I are very close, and I missed her so much when I left my freshman year. But having her here now is great! We definitely have a connection, and it's kind of funny because she can read my mind and tell me what I am going to say before I say it sometimes.

What was your most memorable gymnastics moment and your most memorable moment as a Bruin, outside of competition?
My most memorable gymnastics moment now would definitely have to be coming back from my injuries and competing floor again. That was a very big deal to me and has really shown me how everything does happen for a reason, but with hard work and PATIENCE, so many things are possible. My most memorable moment as a Bruin outside of competition was when I was accepted into the UCLA School of Nursing.

You made a pretty rapid ascent from Level 10 to the U.S. National Team. Talk about what it was like to make it up to that level that quickly.
That year was so exciting for me. Just to be able to qualify to the Elite level and compete at the US Championships was amazing. It was so much fun to continue competing that entire year. I think traveling to all the places I did was the most exciting part. Also, making the US National Team was honestly icing on the cake for me at the end of that year. It all was just such a blessing and so much fun!

What are your interests outside of gymnastics?
As most people can probably tell, I love to dance (any kind of dance). I also love to hang out with my family and friends and do different things. I love kids, so any chance I have to babysit or play for a little while, I will take it.

What is the best thing about being a Bruin?
I think the best part about being a Bruin is meeting so many new and different people everyday. The people that we get to learn from are amazing people with amazing backgrounds. It is so cool to be in a place where there is so much history and so many legacies, and to be able to contribute to making our future history is really cool.

Lightning round

Favorite book?
Don't Make A Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings by Tyler Perry

Favorite movie?
Any movie by Tyler Perry

Can't-miss TV show?
Grey's Anatomy

Favorite musician?
India.Arie

Favorite website?
Facebook

All-time favorite gymnast?
Dominique Dawes

Favorite event to compete on?
Floor

Something you can't live without?
Graston (Thanks, Lorita)

Favorite leotard that you've worn at UCLA?
The scalloped leo

Something about yourself that few people know?
I sleep with more than one stuffed animal at night.

Describe yourself in one word.
Unique

Describe your team in one word.
United

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