Gymnastics: Bijak will compete for Germany in Olympics

U. team member fulfills lifelong dream and will represent her native Germany in Beijing
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Utah gymnast Daria Bijak is within months of having a lifelong dream realized after she was selected Tuesday to represent Germany in the 2008 Olympics.

Bijak was named to the team after she placed fourth in Germany's national championships Saturday.

Bijak was selected to the 2000 Olympic team but ruptured her Achilles' tendon and couldn't compete. Germany didn't qualify for the 2004 Olympics.

The sophomore from Cologne, Germany, recently completed her sophomore year for the Utes, helping them to a second-place finish at the NCAA Championships.

"She is so excited," said Utah coach Greg Marsden, who spoke to Bijak on Tuesday. "This has been her dream and only a handful of college gymnasts have gone on to compete in the Olympics after starting college."

If she avoids any injuries and competes, she will be the fourth Olympian in Utah's gymnastics program, joining Missy Marlowe (1988, USA), current Ute team member Gael Mackie (Canada, 2004) and Cheryl Weatherstone (Britain, 1984).

"The requirements are so different from college, it's hard to train for both," Marsden said of the international competitions. "She started right after our season was over to get ready for the qualifying meets."

Marsden acknowledged Bijak's busy offseason could possibly leave her burnt out as the college season begins, but said that is a trade-off he is willing to make.

"The Olympics have been her dream since she was a little girl," he said. "If you really care about someone you have to support them and help them accomplish their dreams."