When asked about her participation in the sport she loves, senior Jennifer Lezeu replied, “A lot of commitment, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of dedication. And it’s so worth it.”
Lezeu, a 5-foot-2 all-around gymnast from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, has dedicated her life to developing and using her talents as a gymnast and has cherished every minute.
She grew up in Canada after her parents moved there from Europe. Lezeu’s father is from Romania and her mother is from Hungary. According to Lezeu, her parents made the move in order to better their lives.
“My dad was a professional soccer player for Romania when he was younger,” Lezeu said. “My mom loves any kind of sport. They were pretty passionate about putting us into sports and seeing what our potential would be like.”
At the age of 7, Lezeu came to a crossroads in her life. Her parents noticed her natural athletic ability at an early age and put her in figure skating and gymnastics classes. After excelling at both sports, she had to decide which sport to pursue.
“Figure skating was a bit boring for me,” Lezeu said. “Gym was more challenging. It was more fun for me when I was little."
“I am so grateful for my parents putting me into gymnastics,” Lezeu said. “This is what I love. My family comes first, but gymnastics is my second love. I’m just so grateful. They have sacrificed just as much as I have — driving me to the gym, doing everything for me so I can be successful in this sport. I am really grateful.”
Since her decision as a 7-year-old, Lezeu has logged countless hours at the gym perfecting routines and learning new skills. The dedication needed to be successful in gymnastics can be daunting because of the enormous amount of time involved. Lezeu has always loved gymnastics, but there was a point in her life when she really wanted to be like other kids her age.
“There was a time when I wanted a social life,” Lezeu said. “I wasn’t getting it, and I had to choose between gym and my social life, and my coach in club decided to give me a few weeks off. After two weeks, I got so bored and I wanted to come back. I think that’s when I decided that my love for the sport was greater than anything else.”
Since that time, it has been all-in for Lezeu. In addition to competing for her club team from age 13 to 17, she was a member of the Canadian Senior National Team in gymnastics for three years and developed greatly during that time. When it was time to decide which college to attend, there were several schools that wanted her addition to their teams.
“I had a few other recruits or schools in mind,” Lezeu said. “BYU was my last recruit. It was a different school than all the others I visited. I felt right coming here.
“I’m not LDS, but coming here I know was the best decision I ever made,” Lezeu adds. “My parents support me 100 percent. If I’m happy, they’re happy. So I’m really glad about that. Just being here has really changed the way I look at things. I just feel like BYU is a great place to learn and a great place for athletics. The environment here is just amazing. If I had to choose again, I would still pick BYU.”
The women’s gymnastics team is glad she chose BYU as well. Lezeu has been a consistent performer for the Cougars, competing in every meet since her freshman year. Lezeu particularly excels on floor and beam with career highs of 9.875 for both events. She was ranked 21st in the North Central Region last year on the beam.
“You put so much effort and hard work every day into the gym,” Lezeu said. “You just want to know that it pays off. And it does pay off because when we go into meets and you hit your routine and get a good score there is that feeling of, ‘OK, I am getting better.’ It’s a sense of accomplishment.” A significant portion of each day is spent in the gym for Lezeu. She has found it necessary to try and find that delicate balance between all aspects of her life.
“I get up and I usually have class in the morning,” Lezeu said. “Then we practice from 12:45 p.m. to about 5 and then there are some days when I have class. If not, I just go to study hall and do homework and study for exams and then go to bed. That’s a pretty consistent routine every day.”
Lezeu is grateful for the relationships she has built with her teammates. She knows that those relationships have helped her maintain focus and find friendship. Spending so much time together has created lasting friendships among all the gymnasts.
“We do everything together,” Lezeu said. “Classes, traveling to meets, and we’re in the gym four or five hours a day together. I’ll have those friends, the girls on the team, for a long time. Memories with them are important to me.”
Lezeu has an intense desire to do her personal best, but that does not overshadow her dedication to helping her team be the best it can be.
“I would really like our team to get to regionals and then get to nationals this year,” Lezeu said. “I feel like we have a really strong team. Everyone has unique abilities and routines that they bring to the team. My goal initially is to help the team out as much as I can, performing the best that I can. Supporting and helping my team along the way, I think that’s important.”
Lezeu will graduate with a degree in psychology in 2013. She plans to continue to stay involved in gymnastics through various ways. One potential plan is to try out for the Hungarian National Team in time for the 2012 Olympics in London.
“I have a Hungarian citizenship as well as a Canadian citizenship,” Lezeu said. “My plan before coming to college was to try out for their Olympic team, and that didn’t work out for me because I got injured. If I would want to, although it would be really hard, I could try and compete for a spot on their team.”
Other plans include potentially applying to be in Cirque de Soleil or to continue studying for a graduate degree in consumer psychology. Whatever it is she decides to pursue, Lezeu is determined to excel.
“I’ve benefited a lot from being a gymnast,” Lezeu said. “Gymnastics is such an obedient sport that I’ve learned discipline and sacrifice and I think I can apply all of that to my life. Yes I am a perfectionist, so being a perfectionist in gymnastics makes me outside of gym as well. There are a lot of traits I have acquired being in gymnastics that have made me a stronger person and individual for the future and for my life.”
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