Soaring to success: Shaina Chen swings and flips to Cornell


photo courtesy of Shaina Chen

The sound of cheering fills the gym as Shaina Chen sticks her landing and lands her vault. In various parts of the massive room, gymnasts are competing in different events: uneven bars, balance beam, floor, and vault. Music plays over the speakers, friends and family watch anxiously, and the cheering intensifies as the gymnasts finish their routines with a flourish.
After eleven years of training in an elite club, Winners Academy, Chen will be going to Cornell University to pursue her future in gymnastics. Having reached the highest level (level 10) in the USAG Junior Olympic levels, and placed for multiple events at last year’s 2021 Nationals, Chen has committed to go to Cornell for a full-ride athletic scholarship.
“It’s taken a lot of time and effort,” Chen said. “It’s always been my dream to get a scholarship somewhere, and here we are.”
While competing for Cornell’s NCAA D1 team, Chen will be going into the medical field through the premed track by studying neuroscience or biology, eventually becoming a doctor.
The university is based on the East Coast in Ithaca, New York. That means moving across the country — a fate Chen is both anxious and excited about. Living on her own, over 2,500 miles away from where she grew up, is a pathway that provides many opportunities.
“I’m excited to try something new,” Chen said. “I’ve never been to the East Coast before. It’s going to be interesting to see snow.”
Although this move will make her miss her friends (and the warm beaches) in California, Chen will move and adjust to her new team and college life at Cornell.
For all high school students, the gymnast advises to not stress too much, but to manage time wisely.
“If you don’t manage your time well, everything just goes downhill,” Chen said. “Trust me.”
With her bright-red Cornell hoodie, Chen will be embarking on a new journey, with a bittersweet beginning. Although the transition from high school to college, from California to New York, from senior to freshman, is a tough one, one thing is true: Chen wil stick her landings both on the mat and in the classroom.