Although 22-year-old Anna Li last competed at the U.S. Championships in 2005 and finished her collegiate career at UCLA last spring, she told IG she is eagerly giving Elite competition another try in 2011.
"After NCAAs (last spring) I thought, 'Maybe I should be finished on a good note,'" said Li, who led UCLA to the team title in 2010, her senior season. "So I took four months off. I did some stunt work and wanted to get into broadcasting and experience some fun stuff. Then I realized I wanted to get back into training."
Anna Li at the Pac-10 Showcase, held Jan. 9 at UCLA
Li, who is in her final quarter at UCLA, said she quickly contacted Galina Marinova and Artur Akopyan, coaches at All Olympia Gymnastics Center in Los Angeles. Chris Waller and Marinova trained Mohini Bhardwaj after she completed her UCLA career. Bhardwaj went on to serve as captain of the 2004 U.S. Olympic team that won the team silver medal at the Athens Games.
"Galina and Artur said they could help me get back in and see how it goes," Li said.
Li said she plans to train at All Olympia until the end of her final quarter at UCLA (March), but may return home to Illinois afterward and train with her parents, Wu Jiani and Li Yuejiu, at their club, Legacy Elite Gymnastics Club in Naperville, Ill.
Wu and Li, who coached Anna for her entire pre-UCLA career, won medals with the Chinese team at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, where the gymnastics competition was held at Pauley Pavilion. From 2004-07 Anna competed at Pauley during UCLA's home meets.
"Over the holidays I went to my parents' gym for a month," Li said. "It's their brand-new gym and I was really excited. I helped out coaching and went to the competitions for their gym. I trained a little but I wasn't strictly training. But now I'm back here (in California) and I'm going to be back in the gym."
Li said she has recovered from a minor ankle injury that she suffered in November, just before a U.S. team training camp in Texas.
"Artur was thinking about bringing me to camp, and then I tweaked my ankle maybe two days before we were going to decide," Li said. "I did it, just on a whim, landing in the pit. But other than that, everything's good. I haven't been taping for vault or floor training."
Li said she is having no trouble adjusting to the training demands of Elite competition, which can be double the 20-hours-per-week maximum mandated by the NCAA for collegiate competition.
"I was prepared because I have been in the Elite environment, and I knew what it took," Li said. "So it is actually really exciting for me to be in the gym for so many hours. I love it. It is a totally different experience from when I was younger, because it was kind of dreadful when I was younger. Now I enjoy the entire time of training, and seeing results after time. It's really fun."
Li, who hopes to compete in an Elite qualifying meet within the next few months, said she is confident despite the fact that she no longer has her UCLA teammates to support her.
"I have a different mentality because it's all for myself now," she told IG. "It's not for anyone else, but for my own satisfaction. So I'm thinking, ‘Just go all out for these couple of months and see how you finish this year. If you feel you've got potential, then great.' But if not, then I can finish with no regrets."