AMES — In gymnastics if you’re not pushing the edge of uniqueness and creativity you might be getting left behind the pack, especially at the college ranks.
But as Local 5’s Matthew Judy shows us, one Cyclone has pushed ingenuity to the max.
She is one of Iowa State’s finest gymnasts,
“She’s one of the very best athletes I’ve ever coached,” Iowa State Gymnastics head coach Jay Ronanyne said.
But Andrea Maldonado’s journey to a place she never expected to be, started on a road nobody wants to go
“I would never go back. It was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever felt. My house was built on cement and I thought it was going to blow away. So I was like oh please lord help us.”
Maldonado was living in her native Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria hit in 2017.
Her family was mostly spared, but her university was not.
“The university wasn’t the same anymore. Our department of communications was totally destroyed so we had to move from place to place and buildings to buildings.”
An elite gymnast, Maldonado moved a year later to Florida, before an opportunity with the Cyclones came calling.
“I just needed to change and take a step for myself.”
At Iowa State, that step became a full sprint, toward one goal.
“She sets her mind to something, it will happen,” Ronanyne said
That something is a fully stretched front flip with three full rotations. Something that had never been done by a female in competition.
That was until Maldonado landed it a couple of weeks ago at the Apparatus World Cup.
“It was so exhilarating, I love that moment and I will forever remember it as the best moment in my career.”
In a career that started almost two decades ago and almost 3000 miles away, her success is an opportunity to give back to her first coach.
“My father and I have gone through Heaven and Hell in this sport and I feel like I needed to honor all his work and make him feel that 17 years of practice was worth it.”
“Now she’s unstoppable because she knows that nothing will get in her way, not a hurricane and not any competitors,” Ronanyne said.
“I’m doing this for me, for my family and to honor everything around me because it’s the only thing that’s worth it.”
The move that Andrea Maldonado executed is now named after her. Simply called The Maldonado.