Photo Credit: Nebraska Athletics

A Conversation with Nebraska Gymnast Chloé Lorange

April 25, 2021

A portion of this Q&A originally ran in the April 2021 issue of Hail Varsity. This interview has been edited for clarity.

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Chloé Lorange’s first year in college was not what she expected. The freshman arrived at Nebraska from Canada in August 2020 and hasn’t been home since. Her parents haven’t been able to visit her either due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

It’s been tough—FaceTime calls and care packages from home have helped—but this is a dream for Lorange. She’s been a gymnast since she could walk, crediting her talent and motivation for how far she has come. Lorange has even reached the Canada Winter Games in 2019. 

There’s plenty more ahead for her, of course. She has big goals with Nebraska. After a year she could have never expected, she’s ready to keep working. 

***

Q: Was your first year of college what you dreamed it would be?

A: Before my first meet as a Husker, we’re all waiting behind the curtains before our names are called. I looked at another freshman like, “Can you see this? That’s our dream and we’re about to do it.” Everyone had told me, “It’s going to go so fast, a season goes so fast, just enjoy it.” You dream about those moments but you never really know how it’s going to go for sure.I guess it met all my expectations, because I love gymnastics and I even love it more in college. When I’m out there competing or even practicing, I love everything about it. It’s challenging, but there’s always going to be a challenge in life and it’s really worth everything.

Q: I’m sure it was an especially challenging year, too.

A: I think since COVID was obviously a challenge for everyone. It’s my first year in college. I didn’t really have ideas (about what it’d be like). Like I had ideas, but until I had done it, I didn’t know. Coming here with COVID and not being able to train a lot back home, my first goal was to just train as hard as I could and to try to contribute as much and help this team achieve their goals. Obviously, personally, my goal overall was just to contribute as much and to obviously perform.

Q: What was traveling internationally like in a pandemic?

A: It was not as complicated as it sounds. I just needed to get a visa and to make sure that I had proof that I was going to study here in person. To continue my stay was easy. It’s more difficult in that I cannot come back home as easy as I was able to come (to the United States).

Q: Has your family been able to visit you since you arrived in August?

A: No, because borders between Canada and USA, you need to have a reason to come here. Even if they go back, then they will have to quarantine for two weeks, which they cannot lose two weeks of work. We do a lot of FaceTime and Zoom.

Q: It has to be difficult not knowing when you might see them again.

A: I think what was difficult was when I came here, I didn’t really know when I would see them again because of the whole COVID thing. Then, it was really difficult because there was multiple times where I thought Christmas, Thanksgiving, I thought I would have time to go back home but then because I would have to quarantine for two weeks back in Canada, I wouldn’t even have time to do that. It was just useless to try to go back. It was a challenge on top of the whole freshman year thing for me, but I’m really thankful that I had FaceTime, and they also send me care packages which is really cute.

Q: I love that. What kind of packages did they send?

A: For example, for Christmas, because I couldn’t spend Christmas with them, we did a FaceTime and they sent me a package with all of my gifts. I opened my gifts with them. I think that was really a good idea. They would also send me things that remind me of back home.

Q: Speaking of home, your first language is French. Has that been an adjustment in the United States? 

A: I had English classes back in Canada but I almost learned English by myself reading books in English, by watching Netflix in English with the subtitles in English. I guess I have an easy way with language because I learned it fast. When I came here, English was not as big of an issue as I thought it would be, but sometimes it is a struggle because the classes are all in English and I don’t quite understand the questions right. It takes me more time to understand but once I was here, it just was a routine and I was just only hearing English all day so I got used to it pretty fast.

Q: And how long have you been a gymnast?

Nebraska Athletics

A: I started gymnastics at three, four years old because my mom thought I had a lot of energy and so she signed me up for gymnastics lessons. I guess that I’ve been doing gymnastics since then. Obviously, I had a lot of talent so I just leveled up each year. I had a moment in my career where I stopped for about two months.

So I just stopped gymnastics, quit for like two months and then just came back because I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do life without gymnastics. At that point, that gave me a push to just be like, “OK, no. Gymnastics is what I want to do.” Now, the question was more like, “How do I want to do it?” From then, my whole secondary school, which is one to five years, I tried to improve as much as I could, tried to go to elite gymnastics too, which I did for maybe two or three years if I remember. It was not easy for me because sometimes I was not as consistent as I should have been to reach elite. I don’t know how to say that.

Q: An elite level?

A: Yes, I had talent and I had the motivation. I think that was what really helped me the most as a gymnast. Each year, I had to just be better and be better. Eventually I reached a peak in my career, which was the Canada Winter Games. That year was my last year of secondary school. When I was younger, I was at nationals once, my first nationals, and I remember I saw a coach from a college gymnastics, like university, and I was curious about it. I was like, “Who is that coach? Why is she here anyway?”

Someone explained to me that college gymnastics existed. They explained to me how it worked. I was like, “That sounds cool.” I got into that, and then I was like, “Yes, I want to do that when I’m older.” That was my goal. I grew up wanting to do that. I’m trying to really work on quality and trying to really reach to universities because it’s harder. Since I’m from Canada, we don’t really get as many collegiate coaches coming to nationals.

As I was saying, my last year, when I went to Canada Winter Games, I think that season was my best because that’s where I was the most stable, that’s where I was the most confident. Even that year, at first, it wasn’t all perfect. The first competition, I was not the best, obviously. It was a build-up. Then obviously, I went to the Canada Winter Games and that was where it was similar to college gymnastics. How it worked is the first day was competition as a team. The second day was individual and the third day was the part for finals.

Q: What was that experience like?

A: Canada Winter Games is like Olympic Games but in Canada. It was really fun to be part of that Quebec team and lead them to win the all-around as a team. It was just amazing.

As it ended, I was just like, “I guess I’m going to college.” I was saying that and I was so excited but I didn’t have any university yet. I knew that around that time, a lot of people already had a university they were already signed to. I was a little bit nervous because I was like, “I really want to go to college.” I just kept pushing and just kept working on getting better. Then, obviously, I made my way to Nationals that year in level 10, and then (Nebraska women’s gymnastics coach Heather Brink) was there, I guess she saw me, and I think she really liked my floor performance. She reached out, and then that’s where it started for me.

Q: It sounds like you may have known a little about Nebraska before Coach Brink reached out, right?

A: Around 2017, I was watching television in my house and I was watching the NCAA Championships in gymnastics. I don’t know what coincidence it is but Nebraska was competing. I just remembered watching this and telling myself like, “Wow.” I knew all the teams but Nebraska, yes, I knew Nebraska existed but I didn’t know much. I know UCLA. When you see UCLA, you see Florida. You’re just like, “Oh, yes, I know who they are.”

Then I saw Nebraska and I was like . . . The only thing I could think of was, “Well, they’re so great to be out there competing against all the teams and just going for it.” I just thought I would never get into that university because I think that’s so brave, and thought Nebraska was so good. Then, when I got approached by Heather, I was like, “Wait, that’s Nebraska.” I was like, “There’s no way.” I watched them years ago, a few years ago at NCAA. I thought they were so brave and I would never make into that team but I made it. I think that’s really interesting.

Q: And now that you have a year at Nebraska under your belt, what goals do you have for next year and beyond?

A: I guess there’s a few skills that I want to put in my routines. I think my goal is to work on quality even more. I’ve seen how it is in college, I know how it feels for me, I know how traveling goes. Now I know I can be confident for next year. I know I’ve done it before. Now I just know I need to work on details, for sure, and maybe upgrade some of my routines. I might change my routine, which is exciting.

Q: You choreograph and cut your own floor music, right?

A: Back at Club Gymnix (a gymnastics club in Montreal) my floor routines were always something that, I guess, impressed a lot of people. I always loved that dancing part, so beam and floor. I always love to be creative and just come up with ideas that no one does. I don’t want it to be like everyone else’s, I want to stand out and I know I can do it. Coming to college, I know that the music and the dances on the floor is something that show off, it is something that stands out. I decided to do my floor routine with “7 Rings” by Ariana Grande.

Q: Oh, wow. That’s awesome.

A: It has that like violence in the music. There’s the instrumental from the original song, obviously. I put two audios together and I cut them. I sent it to Heather, and she really loved it. I created my dance around that. I guess the story behind that is a little bit more like Alice in Wonderland. Also, I have a signature movement which is like the teacup. You know the expression, “That’s the tea,” or, “Spill the tea?” It’s a little bit of attitude in it. I love creating my own routines so I thought, as my first year in college, I just really loved this song and I really loved the vibes to it. I thought it would engage also a lot of people, they would recognize the song. It was just fun to do it.

Q: You might change that up?

A: Yes. Who knows what the style would be, but I might want to keep some of the teacup. We’ll see.

Q: Having watched some of your routines, you just seem so calm and confident.

A: I guess when I’m doing gymnastics or when I’m doing meets, yes, I’m really confident. I think that’s something about me that I just do naturally. Just that before going to a routine or whatever, chin up and say, “No one’s going to do it like you and just go for it.” It really helps me to perform because there’s times where I’m not confident at all but just because I stand like I am, I tell myself that I am and just act like I am, it just makes a huge difference.I’m not always confident in my everyday life because I know I don’t know everything. I know that I can be better but the more confident I try to be or try to act, the more I am.

Q: It also seems like you’re very confident in who you are. You speak up about what matters to you.

A: I guess you could say that I have values. I believe I have opinions. I do stand up for them but I also understand that not everyone will have the same opinion as me and not everyone will understand it like me. I think standing up for yourself and at least showing the world your opinion and what you believe in and what is important to you, I think that’s really important because that’s what makes you who you are in so many different ways.

I think that diversity is beautiful. Yes, speaking up and standing up for what you believe in is really important for me too.

Q: If you could give any advice to a little girl watching you and wanting to be like you, what would you say?

A: I would probably tell her that making mistakes is fine because—I’m going to cry—it was not an easy road to get where I am right now as a person, as a gymnast. A mistake does not define you, whether it’s at gymnastics meet, or in your life, it doesn’t define who you are. I’d tell her not be afraid to be yourself especially when you’re younger because then you grow up, and maybe then you move to Lincoln, Nebraska, and you meet new people. There’s new people that are going to be there for you and that’s going to support you and love you for who you are. I guess that I hope to inspire to others to just not be afraid because if you work hard and if you just keep moving no matter what the speed is, you’re going to get there if you want it.

I’d tell her to dream big.

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