The Innovative Nicole Medvitz
You wouldn’t know by looking at her or hearing her speak in her soft voice, but Nicole Medvitz lives dangerously.
Well, maybe she doesn’t live dangerously, but when she’s on the balance beam, Medvitz pulls off a move so risky that it’s only performed by one other person on Earth.
It’s her move – it’s literally called the Medvitz-Jarred (you can find it at the 46-second mark of this video) – and the senior Penn State gymnast has been doing it since her sophomore year of high school.
“So I did the base of the move before the actual move,” Medvitz said. “It’s pretty much a turn with one leg in the air. I did it with my beam coach, Jen Zappa, who I’ve worked with my entire life before I came here. And she was like ‘Why don’t you just try it to a scale?’ and we looked and it hadn’t been done before. So I tried it and it worked out and then started competing it.”
What makes this so difficult is that doing a move like this on the beam gives her no margin of error. In fact, Medvitz said it’s rated at the highest degree of difficulty. This kind of expertise on the beam has made her one of the top gymnasts in the conference – Medvitz was a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2016.
Her success, especially on the beam, shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. From 2009-13, Medvitz was a Level 10 gymnast, a classification in which the top meet is the Junior Olympics. The only level above this is Elite – the top meets for that one are World Championships and the Olympics.
She was a three-time Junior Olympic national champion on the beam. She racked up wins over U.S. Olympians like 2012 alternate Elizabeth Price and Gabby Douglas, who won the gold medal at the 2012 Games in the all-around.
And yet when the opportunity to move up and potentially become an Elite gymnast came about, Medvitz declined.
Instead, she thought it was important to focus on things like her education. Becoming an Elite gymnast requires a strict dedication to the sport, something that Medvitz knew about and decided wasn’t for her – she cited the fact that this level of gymnastics usually requires being homeschooled.
Medvitz was, however, competing at a college level for years. Level 10 is essentially the same level of competition as college gymnastics, although there are some differences.
“Three times a week we come in at 6 a.m., I never did that in club,” Medvitz said about her collegiate training regimen. “So we’ll come back later at 1:30 and practice the rest of the events. Club we did a lot more drills and stuff because we were still learning new skills, but here it’s a lot of perfecting the skills that we already have because we don’t really need to learn too much more.”
In addition to being technically sound, Medvitz is one of the toughest athletes on Penn State’s campus. For proof, look no further than her freshman year, when she suffered a torn labrum in her shoulder. Instead of getting surgery, Medvitz decided to compete in two events: balance beam and uneven bars. She competed in every meet, all the way through NCAA Championships.
That summer, she got the surgery she needed. Medvitz did only beam as a sophomore while working her way back before feeling like she was “fully better” as a junior. Now a senior, Medvitz feels all the rust that may have built up while getting to full health is gone. With this comes the optimism that she can compete in more events during her senior year. Medvitz hopes to try her hand at the vault and the floor exercise (which she admits are not her strongest events).
When she’s not on the beam, Medvitz is a standout in the classroom, as she was an Academic All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore and a junior and earned the title of Big Ten Distinguished Scholar last year.
She is a management major who wants to combine her love of sports and entertainment after she graduates, and this past summer, Medvitz was a global sales intern for Nike, where she worked with the organization’s integrated marketplace team. Medvitz is also the secretary and oversees the communications and media committee for Penn State’s Student-Athlete Advisory Board.
Penn State women’s gymnastics team begins its 2017 campaign – one which Medvitz hopes will end with a conference championship – on Jan. 7.
Bill DiFilippo, online editor