Osbourn Park junior Kendra Burgsteiner fell hard on her back seconds before her Virginia state gymnastics championship vault. She fell on her face from approximately eight feet and wobbled off the balance beam twice before her uneven bars and balance beam routines.
Each time the crowd gasped, then sighed in relief when Burgsteiner popped up. And they cheered even louder after she rebounded from the falls to pull off flawless routines.
"She doesn't scare me at all," Osbourn Park Coach Monica Brown said. "It's really weird, though, because she hasn't fallen all year [during a routine]. She brought a lot of consistency to our team."
Osbourn Park won the team title last Friday night at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach in large part because of Burgsteiner. She sealed the team competition with a fall-free balance beam routine that netted a 9.525 score, after two of her teammates had fallen to put the title in jeopardy.
In Saturday's individual competition, Burgsteiner notched the third-highest uneven bars score just after falling during warmups for the second consecutive day. She finished 10th out of 21 all-around competitors with a score of 37.425.
"On bars, I just hit everything," Burgsteiner said. "I'm like a daredevil out there. I just go for it."
Burgsteiner transferred from Hickory High School in Chesapeake, Va., just after her sophomore season. Returning to Virginia Beach was a sort of homecoming in which she was reunited with her best friend, Hickory all-around gymnast Megan Clapp. When the pressure came on Burgsteiner to do her flawless balance beam routine during the team competition, Clapp cracked a joke that calmed her down.
"We always look for each other when we're out there," Burgsteiner said. "It was like a reunion with the whole team."
Burgsteiner said her falls during warmups don't worry her because she does it all the time in practice. Plus, once she falls, the crowd's eyes focus on her, and as Brown said, Burgsteiner isn't one to shy away from attention.
"I don't know why that happens," Burgsteiner said of her slips. "I guess I just get pumped up. During warmups I can hear everybody coaching me. Once I compete, I just zone everybody out."