Emma Malabuyo, of Flower Mound, is headed to Tokyo on Wednesday to potentially compete for Team USA in the Olympic Games.
Malabuyo, 18, qualified as an alternate for the women’s gymnastics team at the Olympic Team Trials, coming in eighth place on the unbalanced bars and floor exercise, and ninth place all-around. Before that, in the 2021 U.S. Gymnastics Championships, Malabuyo got sixth place in the balance beam, seventh in unbalanced bars and floor, and fourth place all-around.
Malabuyo has lived in Flower Mound for over seven years and trained at Texas Dreams Gymnastics in Coppell over 30 hours a week while completing high school online. She’ll be headed to UCLA for college this fall.
Not surprisingly, Malabuyo’s interest in gymnastics began at a young age.
“When I was 3 years old, I was swinging around on the monkey bars, and my parents noticed I was really fast,” she said. “I loved doing handstands and I was always flipping around the house, so they put me in gymnastics.”
Last year, before the Olympics were postponed a year, Malabuyo was in peak condition and excited for a shot at her first Olympics.
“I was doing really well, in good shape, and my body actually felt a lot better after healing from injuries,” she said. “I was so ready and prepared.”
But during the year-long delay, Malabuyo had some injuries and more competition in qualifying.
“I couldn’t do my most difficult routines this year,” she said. “I definitely reached my peak last year.”
As an alternate, Malabuyo will be ready to compete in case she is needed in any of the events due to injury or COVID-19 protocols. Malabuyo said that after a few days of training together, the alternates will be kept separate from the team because if a team member tests positive for COVID-19, the entire six-member team will not be allowed to compete and the alternates will be the ones competing.
Malabuyo said she’s still excited to go to the Olympics, though she is disappointed that it won’t be the usual Olympics experience.
“We’re not staying in the Olympic Village, just in a hotel, and we’re only going to be at the venue and our hotel rooms,” she said. “It does take away from what you want to experience, you want to go look at everyone you can instead of being cooped up in your room most the time, but we all have to deal with it and I’m excited to go to Japan and be with the team.”
The Olympics Opening Ceremony is scheduled for July 23, and gymnastic events are scheduled for July 24-29 and Aug. 1-3. Click here for the schedule.