Ostad brings international experience to Tigers

New Missouri recruit compiled impressive resume in Europe.
Freshman Sandra Ostad performs her floor routine against Iowa State last Friday night in the Hearnes Center. Ostad joined the Tigers this semester after competing in Norway.

A former Norwegian gymnastics national champion made her collegiate debut for Missouri in last Friday's victory against No. 14 Iowa State.

Nineteen-year-old freshman Sandra Ostad performed exhibition routines on uneven bars and floor exercise in front of the largest crowd the Hearnes Center has hosted for gymnastics thus far.

Ostad admitted being anxious about her first meet for Missouri.

"The first one is always hard," Ostad said. "I always get really nervous, but I thought it was fun."

Despite her nerves, Ostad does not lack gymnastic experience. The Oslo native began learning gymnastics at a young age.

"I started when I was 3 years old," Ostad said "My mom dropped me off at the gym and I've always done it."

Ostad started competing individually at age 7 and through thorough training, won the Norwegian title in balance beam and in uneven bars in 2007 and 2008. Ostad also competed in international competitions for Norway.

Her teammates view her high-level competition experience as one of the biggest assets she brings to the team.

"The fact that she has other experiences like competing internationally and even for another country is really cool," freshman Brittany Bendoff said.

Missouri's courtship of Ostad began with a standard recruiting e-mail. Coach Rob Drass said he became interested because he had a scholarship available.

Drass said a recruitment opportunity such as the one with Ostad is rare and he quickly decided to take a closer look at her.

"Usually, it's very hard to find someone in the year," Drass said. "So this came through. We kind of looked and viewed some video on her."

After this preliminary investigation, associate coach John Figueroa went to London to watch Ostad compete in the world championships. Afterward, Figueroa met with Ostad and offered her a scholarship to come to Missouri.

"It was a very fast process, but in the end, it worked out well for us," Drass said "She provides depth on bars and floor. We think she has an all-around ability to well on all events."

Ostad began training with the team during winter break. She did not arrive earlier, because she wanted to compete for Norway in last October's world championships. Ostad could not attend Missouri and be available for her country's national team at the same time.

Possibly the biggest challenge for Ostad is adapting to the many changes from moving to Missouri.

"There are so many changes going on in her life," Drass said. "It just took some time, and we're still in that process now of getting her really feeling good about everything."

These changes included everything from meeting her new coaches and teammates to adjusting to college life in general. Furthermore, Drass said there are noticeable differences ranging anywhere from equipment to rules between U.S. gymnastics and international and Norwegian gymnastics.

Ostad has been coping with all this but said she is optimistic about being at Missouri.

"I love it," Ostad said "It's a lot of fun and the girls are so sweet. Everyone is so nice here."

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