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Hopfner-Hibbs to 2012 Olympians: 'Enjoy Every Moment'
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2008 Canadian Olympian and UCLA senior Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs told IG she treasures her accomplishment in both phases of her career, and has confidence in Canada's 2012 Olympic team. Pictured: Hopfner-Hibbs with former coach Carol-Angela Orchard (left) and mother Dianne Hopfner on Sunday at UCLA

2008 Canadian Olympian and UCLA senior Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs told IG she treasures her accomplishment in both phases of her career, and has confidence in former training partner Christine (Peng-Peng) Lee and other potential members of Canada's 2012 Olympic team.

"There have been so many amazing highlights," said Hopfner-Hibbs after UCLA's final home meet of the 2011-12 season, against the University of Oklahoma, at the John Wooden Center on Sunday.

Hopfner-Hibbs on bars for UCLA

"Winning a medal at (the 2006) Worlds was really fun, and I'm so glad I got to share that with my coach (Sport Seneca's Carol-Angela Orchard)," she said. "Here, when we won the 2010 NCAAs, it was amazing. We didn't even know yet that we had won, and we were freaking out like we'd won. Since I've come here, I've gotten to experience so many amazing things. There's no better experience, and I've just loved every minute of it."

Prior to enrolling at UCLA, Hopfner-Hibbs made Canadian gymnastics history at the 2006 World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, where she won the bronze medal on balance beam. The medal was a first for a Canadian woman in world championship history. She finished 16th all-around at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Hopfner-Hibbs said she plans to finish her degree in psychobiology next year, serving as an undergraduate assistant coach at UCLA. Beyond 2013, she is leaving her options open.

"I haven't thought that far ahead," said Hopfner-Hibbs, whose mother, Dianne Hopfner, traveled to Toronto to attend Sunday's meet. "I'm taking it one day at a time and see where it takes me."

Orchard, who traveled from England to attend the meet, said Hopfner-Hibbs' evolution over the past four years is gratifying.

"I think this is a perfect transition from her elite career," said Orchard, who also coached 1992 Guatemalan Olympian Luisa Portocarrero and 2000 Canadian Olympian Michelle Conway at Sport Seneca before they competed for UCLA. "(UCLA head coach) Val (Kondos) and I are so similar that it was quite effortless to go from Sport Seneca to UCLA. I trust Val so much. All of our top athletes from Sport Seneca have gone to Val, and I think Elyse has blossomed. The team atmosphere is phenomenal here, and Elyse thrives on that."

Orchard said she is especially impressed by Hopfner-Hibbs' expressive qualities that have developed during the past four years.

"When you watch the way Elyse dances now, she's become a young woman," Orchard said. "She's so comfortable with herself. Between Val's choreography and Elyse's growth as a person, when you put those two things together, I absolutely love her floor routine. I like it when gymnasts perform and really feel what they do, and you can see she does that. Elyse absolutely feels what she's doing, and that's a really special quality."

Hopfner-Hibbs said she is happy for former Sport Seneca teammate Lee, who placed first all-around at the Gymnix International in Montreal this weekend. Lee left Sport Seneca after Orchard left Canada to work in England, and now trains at Oakville Gymnastics in Ontario.

At the Olympic test event in London in January, Lee led Canada's successful effort to earn a team berth for this summer's London Olympics. She will compete for UCLA next season.

"Peng has always been one of the most talented gymnasts I've ever known, so we all knew she had the talent, and it was just about whether she was willing enough to get there," Hopfner-Hibbs said. "She's worked so hard to get to where she is now, and she's definitely ready to go. I think she's doing really well and she's right on track to accomplish her Olympic goals, so I'm really excited for her."

Hopfner-Hibbs said she hopes Canada's 2012 Olympians will savor their experience in London, as she did in Beijing four years ago.

"I think they just have to enjoy it," she said. "Seriously, it's gone in a second, so just to be able to go there and have fun and enjoy every moment of it is really important."

Hopfner-Hibbs also encouraged the Canadian Olympians to stay focused and self-confident.

"It's hard, because everywhere you look, there are Olympic rings - on the mat, on the beam..." she told IG. "But you just have to stay in the moment. If I could go back and do it again now, I feel I would do so much better, because the college experience is about learning how to stay in the moment and not get overwhelmed with everything going on around you."

International Gymnast Magazine related features:
"All in a Day's Work" – Hopfner-Hibbs profile (March 2008)
"Quick Chat: Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs (December 2008)
"10 Questions with Carol-Angela Orchard" (June 2011)
"Canada Can" – Canadian team feature including Orchard (January 2001)
Christine Lee interview (April 2011)
"A Passion for Performing" – Lee profile (June 2006)
"All in a Day's Work" – Hopfner-Hibbs profile

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