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Hopfner-Hibbs: Sophomore Year '10 Times Better'
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Although world medalist and UCLA sophomore Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs of Canada is not ruling out future international meets, she told IG on Sunday that she is enjoying her current focus on collegiate competition.

Canadian Olympian Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs is enjoying her second year at UCLA.

"It's been so much fun," said Hopfner-Hibbs after she tied for first place on vault and won floor exercise at UCLA's tri-meet against Cal State-Fullerton and Michigan State University at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion.

"Last year was fun, but this year is 10 times better," she said. "I'm more prepared and I know what it's like. Coming back this year, I knew what I had to do and when I had to do it, and I was just ready."

Prior to enrolling at UCLA, Hopfner-Hibbs made Canadian gymnastics history at the 2006 World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark. She won the bronze medal on balance beam in Aarhus, and thereby became the first Canadian female gymnast to win a world championships medal. Hopfner-Hibbs finished 16th all-around at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Hopfner-Hibbs, who as a freshman placed seventh all-around at the 2009 NCAA Championships, said team spirit has helped her relax throughout her sophomore season.

"It's just the difference between elite gymnastics and college gymnastics," said Hopfner-Hibbs, who is majoring in physiological science. "It's two totally different things. Having the team there with you all the time is amazing."

Hopfner-Hibbs said her comfortable adjustment to collegiate gymnastics is evident in the energetic, dance-filled floor exercise she is performing this season.

"It's hard to describe," said Hopfner-Hibbs, who was named Freshman of the Year in the Pacific 10 conference last season. "We just threw a bunch of things in there, and it's really fun." (Click here to view the routine.)

This week Hopfner-Hibbs is taking winter-quarter final exams, and continuing to train for next month's NCAA regional and national championships.

She is also preparing a new dismount on uneven bars (double layout) to replace the double front she previously performed. "I can stick the double layout easier," she explained of the switch.

Hopfner-Hibbs said that, although she is concentrating on collegiate gymnastics, she has not dismissed the idea of competing for Canada again.

"This year I'm leaving that behind, and then... I'm not going to say no, but right now I'm just focused on this," she said.

Hopfner-Hibbs said she has given Canadian gymnastics officials a general indication of her current priorities.

"It's kind of up to me, but I've told them that basically I'm focused on college gymnastics this year, and after that, we'll see," she told IG.

Read "All in a Day's Work," a pre-2008 Olympics profile on Hopfner-Hibbs, in the March 2007 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To order back issues, click here.

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