WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — She wears her dream on her back: ink from 2008, when an Olympic invite for Venezuela was only just that... a dream.
"Representing my country in the sport that I love was my dream come true," Jessica Lopez said. "At some point, I thought it was over but then I kept working really hard and I was really determined to make it a reality, so it was amazing."
Her dream wasn't over then, and it still isn't over today. The 34-year-old gymnast is training for her fourth Olympic games as an all-around athlete. She's trying to nail down her routine from Rio, but it still needs some time.
"When you get away from the sport for a long while, it takes a while to get back your strength, and then get back your stamina and your routine day in and day out," she said. "I didn't know how my body was going to react."
Lopez isn't thinking about the elephant in the room, or even the other younger women in the room, only a top-two finish at the Pan-American games, whenever they will be rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. It's her only chance to qualify for Tokyo in 2021.
"I don't really think about my age. Right now, I'm in such a different position that I was in before," she said. "I'm trying to focus just on myself and doing the best that I can and putting the best routines together that I can do just for that meet."
Her previous Olympic training schedule was a full time job. Lopez would train for roughly eight hours, seven days a week. Prior to the cancellation of winter championships and the spring semester, she had a full time job as a volunteer assistant coach with her alma mater DU. With help from the team at 5280 Gymnastics, she was balancing her time and training more efficiently.
"Now, the biggest challenge is doing everything that I'm doing: coaching, judging, training, working."
The new schedule looked like this: Monday and Tuesday from 8-12:30 training, then coaching at DU. Weekends, the team had competitions (until the season was canceled) and she would travel with the team, judge some weekends, and get training sessions in before competitions.
But the balance was worth it for the reward of spending time at her home far away from home.
"There's so much love in that team," she said. "The girls are just such a family. That's how I would describe DU gymnastics: we're a family."
Lopez said she is waiting to hear more details about the Pan-American games to hopefully qualify for the Olympics.
"I have been training for as long as I could waiting for more details," she said. "I am still processing all of the information and taking one day at a time until we have more details."
She said the extra year should actually help her with her training.
"It will give me the opportunity to pace myself and upgrade all of my routines." she said.
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