GYMNASTICS: Sarah Wilson ’24, from “young perfectionist” to “true leader”
The News spoke to Sarah Wilson and her former and current coaches about her journey from Level 10 gymnast to award-winning student-athlete.
Zoe Berg, Senior Photographer
Sarah Wilson ’24 has swung into the spotlight, claiming the title of GEC Gymnast of the Week with no intentions of falling.
Wilson has been flipping her way through competition floors around the country with the team, all the way from Alpharetta, Georgia to Yale’s John J. Lee Amphitheater. She has consistently put up scores that help the Bulldogs succeed. Notably, she posted a career-high all-around score of 38.925 at a meet on Jan. 29 at the University of New Hampshire. Wilson was also named Week 4 Gymnastics East Conference Gymnast of the Week, a reward given by the GEC to one gymnast each week.
“Her gymnastics stands out on every event, and she is so reliable in pressure situations,” said Yale head coach Andrew Leis. “This award and nomination is a testament to the hard work she put into every practice and is so well deserved. She comes in every day with a smile on her face and pushes herself to be the best she can be on a daily basis … a true leader by example!”
Wilson is an all-around performer, but her specialty and favorite event has always been the uneven bars. Just recently, Wilson scored a 9.800 on the event, placing third against Temple. She has been a part of the competing bars group for the past two seasons, and the team overall relies on this event to set the tone for every weekend meet, said Leis.
The bars enthusiast is excited to work on her “poise” and “consistency,” Wilson told the News, but she also excels in the three other events. In particular, she is working on upgrading her vault from a tucked Yurchenko full to a layout Yurchenko full — a challenging skill to compete at college-level meets.
Wilson is one of two Black gymnasts on the Yale team. She and Raegan Walker ’23, who recently won GEC Gymnast of the Week two weeks in a row, are consistent competitors for the team’s recent successes.
“Yale has done a fantastic job in supporting me as a Black student-athlete through endorsing and supporting organizations like the Af-Am House and Yale Bulldogs for Change,” Wilson said. “These programs create a safe space for me and other Black student-athletes alike.”
Leis and his entire team try to maintain a welcoming, accepting environment through the team’s recruitment process, activities and overall atmosphere. He said the team focuses on “empowering out student athletes of diverse backgrounds” and making inclusivity central to team culture.
Wilson said she is grateful for her team’s support that is “more than skin deep,” as they care for her — as a student, athlete and person.
“One word to describe my Black student-athlete experience here at Yale is ‘unity,’” Wilson said. “I believe that the Black student-athlete community is strong because we are unified by the common goal of trailblazing a path for future Black student-athletes.”
Wilson emphasized her hope that the celebration of Black excellence will not be limited to Black History Month.
“As a Yale community, I hope that we can remain reflective of the contributions of Black heroes past and present all year long,” she said. “Specifically, I hope to see Yale continue to emphasize education of African-American history in ways that are accessible to all Yale students.”
Wilson has been doing gymnastics since she was eight years old, and her home gym in Alpharetta, Georgia is Infinity Gymnastics Center. Her former head coach, Elena Piskun, was a former Belarusian artistic gymnast who won two World Championship gold medals in the 1990s and competed at the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Wilson trained with this team for the majority of her six-year Level 10 gymnastics career, helping her become a Yale gymnast.
“Sarah always tried to be a perfectionist,” Piskun told the News. “It was a great challenge as a coach to teach her that even though a turn may have not been perfect, it was still beneficial.”
Wilson’s success did not begin in college. With her home team, she was a five-time USA Level 10 Region 8 Regional Qualifier and the Bars runner-up in the 2019 Region 8 Regionals competition. Additionally, she qualified for the USA Level 10 Nationals many times.
Piskun is proud of Wilson’s personal growth, both as a gymnast and as a young woman.
“She is extremely smart, and that in itself is incredible,” she said.
Wilson’s hard work has not stopped since high school, and she continues to spend endless hours in the gym. Every practice, she said she is reminded of “the unmistakable opportunity that [she is] given each day to do gymnastics for the team and for the school that [she] love[s].”
Wilson will join the other gymnasts at the Ivy Classic this Sunday in Providence, Rhode Island.