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‘We’re getting chills’: Clemson gymnastics gears up for inaugural season

Justin Robertson
Clemson gymnastics head coach Amy Smith talks with her team during practice in Littlejohn Coliseum on Oct. 17, 2023.

In just 86 days, Clemson gymnastics will compete in its first-ever competition, and the inaugural team is eager to hit the ground running.

After over two years since Clemson announced it was adding a gymnastics program, the wait is almost over for the Olympic sport to have a presence at the University.

Preparing for the program’s debut, first-year head coach Amy Smith spoke to the media at Littlejohn Coliseum on Tuesday and dished on her excitement for the team’s first season.

“It’s like we’re getting chills,” Smith said. “You know, it’s like we’re getting closer. It’s happening. To get the team in here today, their second home, aside from the new training facility that we got in the next two weeks, making Littlejohn home today and getting acclimated. It’s beyond exciting.”

Clemson named Smith head coach in April 2022 after she spent five seasons as the leader of the gymnastics team at Utah State. As a national championship-winning gymnast and a seasoned coach, Smith has over 20 years of experience in gymnastics. That experience aside, leading the charge for a brand new program has come with overwhelming moments for Smith.

“When you take over a program that’s already established, it’s typically like drinking water out of a firehose. I feel like the last year and a half, it’s been trying to drink out of the water hose while I’ve got two shooting me in the side of the face, and then one in the back. And then we’re building the plane as we’re flying it,” Smith said. “So it’s been an incredible, incredible experience. It’s the most overwhelming year of my life, but the most amazing and awesome, as well.”

Clemson gymnastics sports an 18-person roster mixed with transfers and freshmen that Smith and her staff recruited. With that combination of experience and potential, Smith believes the team has what it takes to start off on a high note.

“We’ve got a great group and just feel really confident with the transfers that we have and with our newbies that came in with us, too. We feel like we’re gonna be really competitive out of the gate,” Smith said.

One of those transfers is Rebecca Wells, a redshirt senior all-around who followed Smith from Utah State. Wells is one of the Tigers’ most proven gymnasts, as she set a school record at Utah State with 12 beam titles. A Tennessee native, Wells said she is happy to be back in the South and that she “wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

“It’s amazing being able to start this program with this team and just building the culture already,” Wells said. “We’ve already had so many good meetings and conversations about who we want this team to be in a few years and starting this year.”

Clemson will host a free “Gymnastics 101” exhibition in Littlejohn Coliseum on Dec. 8. The Tigers will then compete in their first-ever home meet on Jan. 12, 2024, when they host William & Mary.

While the sport is brand new to Clemson, Smith hopes that students and fans quickly realize the competitiveness and excitement of the sport.

“We are going to create a party in here,” Smith said. “Loud music, getting into it, all that stuff. So these girls are going to bring it. It’s going to be amazing. So yes, come out and see it.”

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Justin Robertson, Associate Editor
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