At the World Championships in Liverpool recently, Lexi Zeiss was named as the Alternate in the American gymnastics team, which saw Team USA win their sixth consecutive World Championships Team Gold medal with the team including Skye Blakely, Jade Carey, Jordan Chiles, Shilese Jones and Leanne Wong. Lexi had her first U.S. National Championships in August, and in July, she competed at the Pan American Championships in Rio de Janeiro, winning Silver in the Team and individual All-Around and Bronze on Balance Beam, and Lexi picked up the Sportsmanship Award for Excellence, Respect and Friendship at the end of the Championships. Currently, Lexi trains at TCT, and she has verbally committed to attend LSU on a full ride athletic scholarship and will compete with LSU Tigers gymnastics team. We talked to Lexi about seeing Team USA win Gold at the World Championships in Liverpool, competing at the Pan American Championships in July and verbally committing to LSU.
You were selected as the Alternate for the American gymnastics team at the recent World Championships, how did you find your time in Liverpool?
Liverpool was such a beautiful city! Everyone was so welcoming and they did an incredible job hosting the World Championships. As the Alternate to Team USA, I did everything that the team did preparing for the competition. I was ready to compete if needed. I was honoured to be part of the team!
What was it like being part of Team USA with Skye Blakely, Jade Carey, Jordan Chiles, Shilese Jones and Leanne Wong and seeing America win their sixth consecutive World Championships Team Gold medal?
It was such an incredible feeling being part of the team. Our team got along so well. I looked up to many of these gymnasts as I moved into my elite career, so to be on a team with them was a dream come true. It was such a cool feeling when we officially knew we won the Gold. To represent your country is such an awesome feeling, and big responsibility. Hearing the National Anthem being played gave me the chills!
How was it competing at your first U.S. National Championships in August?
I was so excited for Championships because it was my first time there. It was my goal for this elite season. The atmosphere was so fun. The fans were loud so it was great. My first Championships was eventful, however. My dad ended up in the hospital with a virus, and I fell on bars during training the morning of competition. My knee was pretty sore, but the Team USA staff had me ready to go for competition that evening. Sarah modified my routines for Day One of competition to put less strain on the knee, and I was ready to go as usual on Day Two. Being in the Top 8 and making the National Team was a dream come true. It was a perfect first Championships.
In July, you represented Team USA at the Pan American Championships in Rio de Janeiro, which saw you win Silver with the Team, can you tell us about your experience competing in Brazil and how did you prepare for the competition?
At the time of Pan American trials, I wasn’t on the National Team. I wasn’t even sure I would be invited to trials. When Sarah told me I had been invited, I knew that I needed to capitalise on the opportunity. The TCT coaches always have us ready, so we didn’t really do anything different before trials. At trials I focused on staying in the moment, and trusted my training, and ultimately earned a spot on the team. My teammate, Elle Mueller, also made the team so that was fun! Sarah, Ellen and I stayed in Texas and trained before we left for Rio. Brazil was my first international experience so I had a few more nerves. Once I started competing, I just reminded myself to smile and have fun. That’s how I compete the best. In the end it earned us a Team Silver, and an individual Silver in All-Around and Bronze on Beam.
Individually, you won Silver in the All-Around and Bronze on the Balance Beam, how did you feel collecting your medals?
It was a pretty surreal experience. Since I was a little girl, I always wanted to compete for my country! To bring home individual medals on my first assignment was exciting. However, the Team medal was the most important because it was for the USA. The individual medals were just a bonus.
You were the recipient of the Sportsmanship Award for Excellence, Respect and Friendship at the end of the Pan American Championships, what was this like?
I was so surprised when the USA staff said I was going back for an award. I wasn’t sure what it was for. I was honoured to receive the award along with male recipient Caio Souza. Gymnastics is important, but being respectful, kind and friendly takes priority. I like to smile and cheer everyone on during competitions because we all work so hard. We need to remember to have fun.
What do you remember most from making your elite gymnastics debut at the 2021 Winter Cup?
I actually qualified for the junior international elite in 2020 but, of course, everything was cancelled because of COVID. In 2021, I moved to the senior elite level so the scores were higher and higher. I also qualified to the Nastia Liukin Cup and was able to compete because I had not officially competed as an elite yet. So I did Nastia Cup (finishing fourth) and turned elite by competing in Winter Cup in the same weekend. It was a pretty fun weekend!
You have announced that you have verbally committed to LSU on a full ride athletic scholarship, was there anything that encouraged you to attend LSU?
I had many offers to some incredible programs, but in the end I followed my heart. I loved the campus and training facilities. I’m excited to be a Tiger!
What are you looking forward to most for starting training and competing with the LSU Tigers gymnastics team?
I think college gymnastics looks so fun! It is definitely more of a team experience. Elite is a different kind of intense, and you don’t really compete as a team unless you are on assignment. The LSU fans love their gymnastics so it will be fun to compete in a packed arena!
Where does your love of gymnastics come from and how did you get into it?
My parents put me in gymnastics before I was two. They wanted me to do it so I was better for other sports. I was invited onto the team very early, but still planned to be done once I was Level 5. I also played soccer and travelled with the top team for my age group, so that was going to be my sport. I just couldn’t give up gymnastics and actually did both until Level 9. That was so hard because I was running from sport to sport. My parents told me it was time to be done. I said I wanted to quit soccer and go with gymnastics. They were shocked! I guess I made the right decision!
Can you tell us about your typical training day and how much does your training change in the lead-up to a competition?
At TCT, the philosophy is train smarter not harder. We aren’t in the gym 35 hours a week like some, so we can take care of our bodies. We have our gymnastics practices, but also do strength and conditioning, and dance. All are important in our gymnastics. Leading up to competitions, our assignments get harder so we have the necessary endurance when it’s time to compete. We also start moving to harder landing.
Did you have any favourite gymnasts to watch when growing up and have you been given any advice throughout your gymnastics career so far that has stuck with you?
Without question, my favourite gymnast was Jordyn Wieber! I cried all night when she did not do the All-Around at the Olympics. She always carried herself with confidence, and seemed like a good teammate. My best advice was from Dr. Larry Widman, who is my elite mindset coach. He told me to never change who I am. I’m a very happy, upbeat, smiling person and was trying to “fit in” to the elite world by being more serious. It wasn’t working for me. When I got back to who I was, I qualified elite for the first time. His message of staying true to who I am sticks with me daily.
What do you enjoy most about being an elite gymnast and being part of the USA National Team?
Elite gymnastics has allowed me to see different parts of the world. However, my favourite part is the friendships! Elite is a hard journey and we all understand that, and support each other. As for the National Team, I just love our country so much that it’s an incredible honour!
How do you like to spend your time away from gymnastics?
I’m an only child and my parents and I love sports; especially football! We go to lots of college and pro football games, as well as many other sporting events. I also like to hang out with friends and family, paint, and swim.
Do you have any competitions coming up that you can tell us about or that you are targeting?
It was a long season since I made the Worlds team. I have been competing since February of 2022. I took a week off and am now back in the gym training upgrades. Our TCT team will go to Winter Cup in February to kick off our 2023 Elite season. I’m excited for the upcoming season, and am hoping for some more international assignments to gain necessary international experience.
Follow Lexi on: