TORONTO -- Laura Zeng and Jazzy Kerber are becoming used to standing atop the podium this season, a notion repeated when they earned gold and silver in the rhythmic gymnastics individual all-around Saturday afternoon at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
Zeng and Kerber also finished first and second at the USA Gymnastics Championships last month.
Despite competing directly against one another in an individual sport, they both insist there is no rivalry between them – no matter how hard the notion is pressed.
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In Saturday’s competition, Zeng, a 2014 Youth Olympic bronze medalist, took gold with a four-event score of 64.575 on a day where she entered in second place, down 1.275 points at the halfway mark to none other than her teammate, Kerber.
“We’re really good friends, actually,” said Kerber, who finished second with a score of 62.200. “When we compete, we each hope to do our own best and we would never feel unhappy if the other person did well.”
Zeng, who reached the senior level this year, has been learning a lot from Kerber, who has competed as a senior since 2012.
“Jazzy is really inspiring to me and it helps me pull myself up even further, and we can really bounce off each other and work harder and improve more,” Zeng said.
Despite a .600 deduction for an out-of-bounds infraction in the hoop portion on Friday, Zeng took the top spot after Kerber bobbled a mastery early in her clubs routine on Saturday.
Kerber insists that nerves didn’t play a part, and that she actually finds herself under less pressure after a mishap.
“It actually just makes me feel more like I might as well just give everything on the rest of the routine because there’s nothing to lose,” said Kerber, a two-time world all-around finalist.
“All you can ever do is just continue because what happened, happened. It was disappointing to make a mistake, but at the same time, you can’t control it once you’ve already done it. … The best thing to do is keep going.”
Kerber and Zeng are pupils of coach Natasha Kilmouk at the North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center in a suburb outside Chicago, and have traveled together internationally, with their sights set next on the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships in September in Germany.
They train together. They travel together. They medal together.
“We see each other every day, basically. We’ve gotten pretty close,” Zeng said. “She has a little bit more experience than me, and whenever I feel a little down or something, I always feel like she has good words of advice for me.”
Fellow North Shore gymnasts – Kiana Eide, Alisa Kano, Natalie McGiffert, Jennifer Rokhman, Monica Rokhman and Kristen Shaldybin – totaled 29.275 to capture silver in the group all-around behind Brazil, which won with 30.233 points.