Former GymDog Courtney Kupets Carter took the helm as head coach of Georgia gymnastics in the summer of 2017. Her team reached two consecutive postseason championships from 2018-2019, but had no chance to go the distance in 2020 due to COVID-19 cancellations.  (Photo: Kathryn Skeean)

Olympic medalist Courtney Kupets Carter left Athens as the most successful GymDog in the history of Georgia gymnastics. From 2006-2009, Carter won nine individual NCAA titles and helped lead her team to four consecutive national championship victories. 

Kupets Carter returned to Stegeman Coliseum as gymnastics head coach for the 2018 season.

Following back-to-back postseason appearances, the team’s 2020 hopes were cut short when the NCAA canceled all remaining winter and spring championships on March 12. 

The Red & Black's staff writer Sydney Kohne spoke on the phone with Kupets Carter, who discussed the season cancellation, remote coaching and the future of her graduating seniors. 

Kohne: What were some of your first reactions to the cancellation? Did you have any sort of forewarning about what was going to happen, or was it just as much of a surprise to you as it was to us and the other athletes?

Kupets Carter: Unfortunately, it was just as much of a surprise to me. I was recruiting that day, then everything kind of [tail spun] downward into a complete shred of [a] season and everyone going home within a 24-hour notice. We did have one meeting. We had talked about it at 9 a.m. that next day and everyone was gone. When I talk to the team now everyone laughs about the fact they have to do laundry all the time. So it's just a funny dynamic … [but] shock was the initial reaction.

Kohne: Was there a lot of confusion from the girls, and were you getting flooded with calls about what was happening?

Kupets Carter: I mean, within 24 hours we all knew. It was one message after the other. I was getting questions on if things were correct that they were seeing in the media. But overall, it was so quick that I tried to push out the information that I was receiving from UGA as quickly as possible to them. I’d love to do it in person more than anything, but [it was] so quick and everyone was just seeing things unfold for themselves, which made it a little bit more difficult.

Kohne: How much can you talk to the girls, either through Zoom meetings or anything more one on one?

Kupets Carter:  From the beginning, we started with two Zoom calls a week just to check in, see how they were doing and go over some stuff. That shifted from time to time during finals. Our strength and conditioning coach has been great [at] trying to figure out what they might have at home and send some ideas for them to do workouts but we're not allowed to mandate anything, and there’s no reporting back. The day that we're allowed to have those Zoom meetings where we all do a workout together will be a fun day. 

Kohne: Prior to the NCAA altering eligibility rules, there were rumors that Rachel Dickson wanted to come back for another year after tearing her Achilles tendon in the preseason. Now that the rules have changed, has her mindset changed as well? 

Kupets Carter: I will say it’s been tough for her not being able to go to a rehab facility, [or] be able to get into the gym. She's still got a couple things to work through before she makes a full decision. But it's been very difficult, and rightly so for not having any way to continue the progress that [she is] working through.

Kohne: Did Sabrina Vega ever express to you any feelings about returning?  

Kupets Carter: [Vega] had given gymnastics everything in her four years at Georgia, and you could see that within our performance. So, I know there's sadness on how it ended and having to work through that. But at the same time, I've told her she should feel amazing about her gymnastics career because she [did] a fantastic job, and she was just someone that you always wanted to watch when she competed. We made jokes at times and she made jokes at times that she was the old lady because she's quite older than everybody else on our team. Her body for her age does an amazing job at continuing to be able to do gymnastics.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.