Cintia Rodriguez: I Can't End Like This

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Personal photo of Cintia Rodriguez

Cintia Rodriguez is a Spanish gymnast that first caught my eye at the 2013 World Championships. Her floor routine was magnificent and her lines and attention to detail really drew me in. She is also a steady competitor on uneven bars, where she has been working towards an original skill - a full twisting Ray shoot to high. I had the pleasure of working with Podcast Asimetricas, a Spanish gymnastics podcast, on this interview and am glad we can bring the translation to you all. You can check out the podcast here.

- For those who don’t know her, Cintia Rodríguez is a Spanish gymnast born in Mallorca on the 16th of November, 1994. She trains at Club Xelska. She is a member of the Spanish National Team and she has competed in 3 World Championships (Rotterdam 2010, Antwerp 2013, and Nanning 2014), 2 European Championships (Sofia 2014 and Bern 2016). We’ve also seen her compete in some World Cups, and in the Italian and German Gymnastics leagues, as well as in the Spanish National Championships and several friendly meets.

- Well, if you want we’ll start asking you a ton of questions, how does that sound?
- I’m pleased to answer

-OK, so let’s start as with everything, from the beginning. How did you get started in gymnastics, how old were you, and why did you start?
- I started when I was 3 years old because my older sister did gymnastics and I would always go pick her up (from the gym) with my mom. I saw her doing gymnastics and I fell in love with the sport. Ever since I started, I haven’t been able to stop.

- Thank God! What are your best memories of doing gymnastics as a child?
- Truth be told, when you’re little you love everything. I loved going (to the gym), I would never get tired despite spending hours there, and also (I loved) learning things.

- And what did you enjoy the least when you were little? You’re saying that you liked everything, but there must have been something that you didn’t like?
- As a child it’s difficult (not to like something) since when you’re little it’s something new and all, you always like everything, but I guess that physical preparation… well, like right now, I hate it!

- So that’s also what you hate right now, physical preparation?
- Yeah!

- When did you realize, or when did your coaches realize that you were good at it?
- Well, actually I’ve never realized that I’m good at it, basically because I’ve never seen myself as better than anyone nor with the ease that others have, but I guess that when I changed gyms at age 8, Pedro (Pedro Mir, her current coach) realized that I had something, that I was special.

- When did you first became a member of the National Team, and what did that achievement mean to you?
- I became a National Team member in 2008, when I competed at my first Junior International, and to me it was… I remember it as something super special because I had the study trip (school organized class trip at the end of the school year) and it was either to go to the trip or to go to the International. And without a doubt I said to myself “I’m going to the International!”

Photo by Cordelia Price at 2013 World Championships

- But of course! I would have done the same thing! And, we guess that going to the Olympics is a dream for all gymnasts, but did it become something that you wanted at some point? Is it a goal of yours?
- Since 2012, when I went to the Test Event and we (the team) almost did it (almost qualified), since that moment yeah, to me it was the main goal, and well, to have been able to go to Rio would have also been the best! Because after Worlds, what you want is to go to the Olympics, but well, it’s also ok if you don’t go…

- Well, there are other things I guess…
- Yeah…

- I guess there are other things that are worth it…
- Right, it’s not everything, but at the same time it is everything… but you always have to look at the bright side and if I’m never able to go, well, I would still have gone to 3 World Championships, which is something…

- But of course! Well, and now Cristina has some questions about the Spanish system and stuff. Tell us, Cristina…
- Yeah, for people who don’t know much about it, Cintia, could you explain for us how does the Spanish gymnastics system works? How are the training centers organized? How often does everybody get together? How do you start training at any of the high performance centers?
- Ok, well, there are 2 high performance centers, that would be the one in Madrid, and also the one in Sant Cugat, in Barcelona. And then in Mallorca we have the Technification Center. And well, if they call you and you want to go, then you go to train in Madrid, but we here in Mallorca… I’m really well, and back then I decided that I didn’t want to go and I stayed here at home. Each center has their own planning, which is more or less coordinated, and once in a while Lucía (Lucía Guisado, the Spanish National Team Coordinator) comes over to test us, or we go over there to do the tests and concentrations.

- And I guess that’s how they decide who represents Spain at each competition, right? With the tests?
- Yeah, yeah, depending on the scores and whatever they wish, you are either part of the team or you’re not.

- Oh, ok. Well, as far as we know, you have psychologists, nutritionists, and other experts that help you. Is that correct? And if so, how often do you see them?
- Well, I don’t know about Madrid, but as for the Technification Center, we have psychologists, physiotherapists, everything, and I guess that you can see them whenever you want, but I’ve never gone to the psychologist so I have no clue.

- Well, from the outside we can tell that all the gymnasts on the Spanish National Team get along really well. Are you close because of something in particular? Are you often told about the importance of the team feeling, or is it something you seek on your own? How does it work?
- Well, each one gets along better with the gymnasts in her center, the ones in Madrid are closer to the ones in Madrid, Barcelona with Barcelona, and so on… it’s only natural, but then when it comes to competing if we are a team, we are a team, and who cares if you’re from Barcelona, Madrid, or Mallorca. If the score is for the team, it’s for the team, you don’t have to be thinking you’re from Madrid and all… we try to think as a team so things turn out better.

- And then also within your Club, the girls that train there also seem to get along very well, right?
- My Club, more than a club is really a family, because we are all really close, we do a lot of activities outside the gym, from a bbq to going to the beach all together… we do a lot of things because it’s really the base of our club, that more than a club we are a family and I know it sounds cliché, but we really feel it. For instance, during the spring we have a festival and us seniors that have attended World Championships have to train with the 4 year olds and help them do handstands, and with their parents being there too… because it’s the goal.

- Yeah, we can see it because of the things you all share in social media, that’s why we were asking. And… what do you think the Spanish gymnastics success is due to? When things go well, what do you think it’s due to?
- Well, I think it can be summarized in the word “work”. When the work is well done, there’ll be results, sometimes better sometimes worse, but if you work with excitement, constantly, and you give it your all, it may go wrong, but most likely it will go well.

- You’re known internationally because of your elegance and your balletic style, have you ever done dance or ballet? Or has it always been within the training regimen?
-Oh, not at all! I’ve only done gymnastics and gymnastics! Actually dancing or doing any other thing I am super pathetic and super clumsy! But since I don’t have big D scores, the jumps, leaps, turns and elegance come out naturally.

- So far, what have been the best and worst moments of your career? What are you the most proud of, and what has been the hardest thing you have gone through?
- What I am most proud of is to have overcome breaking my knee twice, to continue doing gymnastics after 5 surgeries. That’s what I’m most proud of, that I never quit. The fact that I haven’t been able to do, for instance, a Yurchenko ever again… well, it is what it is… I can’t really train on vault anymore because my knee always hurts, but that’s what makes me happy, that despite all that, the pain, the 5 surgeries, having rehab every day, I’m still training. And the worst moments… well, it’s been the surgeries, and about everything else, I’d say I’m quite happy. I can’t complain.

- What element was the hardest to learn?
- The stalder release facing inward with counter movement and full twist in flight to high bar, that is, a Ray with full twist…

- That’s the…
- “The Rodríguez”

- “The Rodríguez!”
- 3 years! I’ve been attempting it for 3 years.

A video posted by Cintia Rodriguez (@cintiia_94) on

- Yeah, I knew you were training something, a transition, I was told… I saw you attempting something, but I wasn’t sure of what it was until one day at a competition, practicing something, you did it, although I think you didn’t compete it at the end, right?
- Well, I saw Cristina Riera when I was little. She was doing it and I told Pedro “I wanna do it!!” and he said, “Well, try it!” and (we started) playing. Eventually the game became “We have to do this because you do it really well." We have tried all along these past 3 years, a thousand combinations, a thousand tactics… how to do it, because it’s actually super difficult and super precise. Eventually, one day, I’m not sure how we figured out the key and we’ve been working on it. Well, some days it turns out better, some days it turns out worse, but it’s really super difficult and the day that I lose focus or the exact moment in which I have to let go (of the bar) and stuff, then I can’t do it because it’s actually difficult and then some other weeks I do it super well. I’ve competed it here, in Mallorca, and I did it, also 2 weeks ago, in France. I did it during training but then it didn’t turn out well in competition. So well… I’ll keep working on it and whenever I’ll do it, I’ll do it.

- We can’t wait to see it and for it to be named after you because you deserve it! And… was there any element that you thought would be hard (to learn) and all of a sudden you just did it?
- Hmm… (she pauses to think)

- There is nothing that easy, huh?
- No, there is not!!

- Everything is complicated in gymnastics
- Oh but the other day, the split ring leap, I did it on the mat, and the coach said, “Come on, now do it on the beam” and well, I fell, but then I did it quite well

A video posted by Cintia Rodriguez (@cintiia_94) on

- You posted a video of it too, we saw it!
- Yeah! So the first attempt I was scared and I didn’t do it, second attempt I fell, and the third one I did it!

- Very well, 3rd time's the charm! And right now, are you trying to increase your D scores? Are you training something new or are you just perfecting what you already have?
- Well, problem was that this week, which was dedicated to do new elements, I was on vacation because tomorrow I start, for 4 weeks, a Level 2 coach course so I was off this week and I couldn’t train, but when I get back I will try to increase my difficulty on beam and bars.

- And speaking of bars, up until a few years ago, grips were not really used in Spain, have you always used them, or did you adapt to them later on?
- I’ve only used grips for a year now. I had never used them before, and when I was 20 years old I put them on!

- Yeah, I never used them! How was the transition for you?
- Horrible! I was telling him (her coach) everyday “I don’t want to wear them! I don’t want to wear them!” Because they don’t help me. The L-grips, they were so hard to do (with grips) even today. I was super happy without grips, but honestly, it was hard also to go out (as in to compete outside of the country) and everybody used them and I didn’t because they didn’t work for me.  And honestly, the only reason why I began to use them was to do the Ray with a full twist because I actually do it better with grips.

- Yeah well, maybe they’ll help you with some things…
- Right now I’m very well (with the grips) but the L-grips are still a little hard to do with grips.

- The day I used grips for the first time, I did a kip and I decided they weren’t for me, so yeah, I guess I can understand.  Well, and about your floor exercise, does the choreography have any meaning? Does it represent something?
- No, not at all. The choreographer puts it together for me and the day after I’m already doing different movements because I tell her “nah, I don’t like this, may I do this instead?” and she says “Yeah, do whatever you want, everything looks good if you do it.”

- So you make it yours…
- Yeah. Actually, anytime I do my floor routine, it is never the same choreography! It’s not the same moves! I improvise depending on the music and how tired I am.

- And, which has been your favorite floor routine of the past years?
- Hmm! I think this one.

- The one you have right now?
- Yeah, the one I’ve had for this past year, I like it a lot, the music and all… and besides this one, the one I had 2 years ago, the 2014 one I think, I also liked that one a lot.

- Which are your favorite apparatus?
- Let’s see, this is complicated! To train, beam, without a doubt, beam is my favorite. But when it comes to competing it, I hate to compete on beam, well, I guess it happens to all of us, because you have a really hard time! But beam is my favorite, and then bars. Although when it comes to compete, I love to compete on floor!

- Yeah, it’s really appealing.
- Yeah!

- How do you feel about the current code? Would you change anything? (She understand that we’re asking about the 2017-20 code and answers accordingly) 
- Well, I actually printed it today. I haven’t completely looked at it yet but there are some things that I find great, that are on our side, like beam D dismounts not being mandatory anymore, for instance, or that leaps and turns are more important…

- Oh, so we’re talking about the code that will be current after the Games…
- Yeah, exactly. And then, also, on uneven bars, it doesn’t affect me at all, but I think it’s great that you can only do 3 elements of the same family! It doesn’t affect me because I don’t have so many similar elements, but there are a lot of gymnasts that I think (their bar routine) is very repetitive and they abuse it, and like this, well, now they have to learn something different.

- And about the former perfect 10 system, do you like it more or less than what we have now?
- I liked the perfect 10 system so much better, but well, what we have right now isn’t bad either, but the perfect 10 was so much cooler.

- And how did it come up to start competing at the Italian and German leagues?
- The German league… There was a man that used to come with his daughters from Germany to vacation in Mallorca and he got in touch with Pedro because they (the little girls) wanted to do gymnastics and from then on, like 12 years ago, a great relationship was established. This man ended up building a gym for his daughters back in Germany and he said “Pedro, please, I started this gym, would you come over with your girls and help us compete so we have a higher level, and in exchange I’ll help you with whatever?” and we were pleased to do it so in 2010. It was the first time I went to the Regional League to help them get to 3rd division, with that team, the Gym Tittmoning, and from there on I began to compete in Germany and I went to the Hamburg Gymnastics to compete and there was an Italian judge. That Italian judge got in touch with me and said that in Italy they needed help to get to 1st division and so I started to go to Italy too. In Germany we never change teams, we always compete for the Gym Tittmoning which has different categories, and in Italy I’ve competed for a different team every year.

- And not so long ago you have competed at Spanish Nationals. Can you tell us how did it go, what were your impressions?
- This National Championships went really bad!

- Well, it happens sometimes…
- Yeah, well… vault I did well, look at that! And floor was the last and truly, I was actually really angry and I didn’t even feel like competing, but I did, and I can’t complain because I didn’t do bad. Beam was a disaster and bars… I made a mistake, and I never make mistakes and that is what made me so frustrated.

- Well, it’s just one competition, there will be more… these things happen! And now I’m gonna leave you with Nines, who’s going to ask you about the future and some other things.
- Ok

- Yeah, I’m going to ask about things that are maybe a little more general. To begin with, how is your normal schedule in a week? How do you make gymnastics compatible with other things?
- Well, I wake up at around 9:30am, and I go to the gym… well, some days I get up earlier and go to English class, then I go to the gym from 11am to 2pm, I eat from 2pm to 3pm, then I work as a secretary from 4pm to 5pm, and from 5pm to 9pm I go back to the gym, and then go back home. [That schedule is] on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Thursdays, I only train for one session and on Saturdays I also only train one session.

- A ha, and you commented earlier that you are taking a Level 2 coaching course, could you tell us more about it?
- I start tomorrow. In 2012, I took the Level 1 coaching course, and I passed and got certified, and this year they offered the Level 2 course here in Mallorca and well, learning new things is always good and despite I don’t want to be a coach. Well, I’m not sure. As of right now I don’t want to be a coach, but I’m taking the course because it’s one more thing to have and it’s important.
[Since this interview, Cintia has started the Level 2 course and is enjoying it enough to reconsider coaching!]

- So, what are your goals for the future, inside and outside gymnastics? What do you want to achieve in gymnastics, and in general with your life?
- That is quite a difficult question!

- Yeah! It is for all of us, yeah!
- In gymnastics, I wasn’t sure… a few weeks ago I was considering this to be my last year but I truly like gymnastics too much and it won’t be my last year. Most likely I will only train one session from now on so I can do some other things… and outside of gymnastics… I’m not sure yet.

- Have you ever considered to continue your gymnastics career at an American University? Is it something that you even consider here in Spain? Do you (the Spanish team) receive scholarship offers, or is it not too common?
- Yeah, I’ve actually discussed it sometimes with Jessica López and her coach, but it’s not something that I have seriously considered… I just think it’d be very difficult, but on the other hand I would like to do it because it would be amazing to experience how gymnastics is felt over there!

- So you haven’t completely ruled it out yet
- No, I’m not ruling it out yet, but I don’t see it as a very viable option…

- And… since you’ve mentioned Jessica, your choice would be Denver University or…
- I have no clue!

- You haven’t given it much thought yet as I see…
- Nope!

- Ok, and lastly, as curiosities, I wanted to ask a couple more things. I’ve noticed that when you (the Spanish team) post videos or pictures on social media, you always write a motivational quote, everybody in the team does it. Is it because of something in particular? Do you have a pact or something?
- No, not at all. They, the ones from Madrid, I’m not sure because they are always posting pictures at the same time and all, so I have no clue. But me, depending on the picture, I come up with a quote and I write it down. I like to write, so I come up with it, and I put it there.

- That’s cool. And another curiosity, what gymnasts do you admire, or who are your role models?
- Without a doubt, for me. Catalina Ponor has always been worthy of admiration. In Bern I was actually able to take a picture with her and I was like “Oh, God! I took a picture with her!!”

Personal photo of Cintia Rodriguez

- Hey, and she with you!
- Yeah yeah… but she started to follow me on Instagram and I had to take a screenshot of that! And also Svetlana Khorkina has always been important to me, and also Nastia Liukin, I’ve always liked her a lot.

- You all have similar styles actually… everyone you mentioned and yourself, just so you know.
- Well, it’s actually the kind of gymnastics that I enjoy. I don’t want to take away the merit from some because it’s incredible what the Americans do! Simone is a beast! And I admire it because I will never be able to do things like that, but I would always prefer a Dutch gymnast like Lieke Wevers to Simone Biles, for instance. Because it’s my gymnastics style and I like it more… because it’s artistic gymnastics, not acrobatic. But that’s just my opinion of how I see gymnastics.

- Yeah well, you and a lot of people, of course… And well, is there anything else that you would like to tell us about your gymnastics or about you? Is there any question that we haven’t asked you? Just tell us whatever you want!
- Actually… I don’t know!

- Yeah open questions like that are a little difficult. Does anybody want to ask her anything else?
- (Cristina) Yeah, I wanted to ask if you’re planning to continue doing gymnastics, but you’ve already said you are and I am very happy about that. But I’m not sure if you’re planning to continue to a specific moment or you’re just going to continue until you feel like you cannot do it anymore...
-Thing is that when training goes well, we always think of continuing, but when training goes bad I always think, “Nah, that’s it, I am done.” And after Nationals, because it went so bad, the first thing I thought was, “It’s over.” But then you think about it coldly and I tell myself “I can’t end it like this, I want to continue competing. If I don’t get anywhere else with the National Team, well, it’s ok, I’ll train for one session and I’ll go and compete gymnastics to have fun and for those who admire my gymnastics to enjoy it… and that’s it.”.

- Thank you! Thank you!
- And also I am really excited because my coach, Pedro Mir, and Jessica’s coach they are organizing here in Mallorca an international competition, and I would like to compete in it. It’ll be in February.

- Oh, that’s interesting! Can you tell us more about it? I love it!
- Well, I don’t have all the specifics yet because Pedro hasn’t told me everything but I know it’s being organized at a big arena, the Palm Arena, where we had Nationals in 2007. It’s going to be on the 17th and 18th of February and so far, there are already gyms from Brazil and the U.S. that are set to compete.

- I’ll be there… it’s around my birthday too so it’s perfect! Thank you!
- I think it’s going to be super cool and a lot of important people are coming over to compete and I would love to compete in it. And well, another thing I would love is to compete in Italy another year because gymnastics there is incredible!

- I also wanted to ask about Italy… how do you manage with the language? How do you communicate with your team?
- Well, I’ve been going there for three years already and spoke to people so little by little you learn and I speak to them in Italian.

- And in Germany?
- In Germany I speak in English if I can and if not, then Pedro translates for me. But Italian is really easy, you understand everything because it’s really similar to Catalonian (language that is also spoken in Mallorca) and it’s really easy to understand. But about competing in Italy, if you guys ever can make it, I recommend that you attend a competition there because it has nothing to do with how gymnastics is here! In Rome, there was a capacity of 12.000 people! It’s incredible.

- We’ll have to save money to go before you retire so we can see you too…
- If I’m in good shape and some club wants me to compete for them, which for now, they do, I’m definitely competing there next year again… I hope!

- Well, then for now we’d say this is it… you’ve been with us for like an hour now
- It was my pleasure

- Please understand that as excited as you were when Catalina Ponor followed you on IG, that’s as excited as we are for speaking to you
- Oh there is no comparison!!

- Yes, yes for us there is. So thank you, really, for being so kind to do this and answer to all of our questions. Thank you so much.
- It’s the least I can do for people that enjoy gymnastics, try to make it more popular and for other people to know more about gymnastics… I’m proud and pleased to help

Thank you, Cintia, for this wonderful interview and for your beautiful gymnastics! And thank you to Podcast Asimetricas for agreeing to do this interview.

Follow Cintia
on twitter - @cintiia94
on instagram - @cintiia_94

Follow Podcast Asimetricas
on twitter - @asimetricaspod

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