Becoming Elite

April 10, 2021

Sophomore Sydney Barros (center) receives a 5th place award on vault after competing for USA at the 2019 Inaugural Junior World Championship in Gyor, Hungary. She stands with her teammate, Kayla DiCello (USA) and Wei Xiaoyuan (China). (Photo submitted by Carine Barros)

Soon after Sydney joined Texas Dreams, she qualified for USAG’s Junior International Elite at age 13. Level 10 is a huge achievement, but it’s something a lot of people are able to attain, while Junior Elite is a combination of the level 10 skills and natural ability. In 2021, only 18 gymnasts in the country qualified for Junior Elite meets.

Elite level is a crucial step to becoming an Olympic athlete, and Junior Elite is a lower level made for younger athletes. Being a Junior Elite gymnast allowed Sydney to compete in other countries, such as Italy and Hungary.

Sydney’s skills also caught the attention of UCLA. Sydney went with her friends and family in 2018 to visit the campus and talk to athletes and coaches.

“I got to meet all the teammates that were there for the visit and I got to meet all the athletes on the team as of that year,” Sydney said.

About a month after Sydney’s original college visit, the UCLA gymnastics head coach, Chris Waller, called the Barros family to ask if Sydney would be interested in a scholarship. Sydney quickly accepted the offer and, as a freshman in high school, verbally committed to UCLA.

“He was confident in his decision and I was confident in my decision that I wanted to go there,” Sydney said. “So it was as easy as a phone call at the time.”

Sydney didn’t stop there. She kept attending camps and meets and training over 30 hours per week, pushing herself to Elite. After three years of hard work, Sydney achieved Elite status in 2021 at 16. She is now one of 50 Elite gymnasts in the United States and a quick Google search of her name brings up dozens of articles, meet records and photos of her performing gravity-defying skills.

After advancing to Elite, some gymnasts can become household names. Instead of performing in big local arenas, Elite gymnasts are watched on international television.

Sydney is well-known in the gymnastics world and competes against Olympic gymnasts such as Simone Biles and Laurie Hernandez. The people at the top of the gymnastics world have their eyes on her as a potential future Olympic champion.

“Elite is the only thing that’s going to make me able to have [the Olympics] within my reach,” Sydney said.

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