Sophomore gymnast Tatjana Thuener-Rego is a show off.

But in a good way.

Most gymnasts tend to keep a fairly straight face throughout their floor routine. But Thuener-Rego often lets loose a handful of huge smiles, showing no reservation of self-expression.

“I like to show off,” Thuener-Rego said. “It’s part of my personality. I’m not afraid to perform exactly how I’m feeling.”

And that’s a good thing, because Thuener-Rego has walked over, through and around her competition all year long.

The Miami native is the Big Ten’s best all-around gymnast with an average score of 39.267 and has won five consecutive uneven bar titles.

Her ability to show off is one thing, but any fan watching Thuener-Rego perform would quickly realize there’s something else that separates her from all the other competitors on the mats.

Her sparkle.

“You can’t coach that sparkle,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “When she performs, people sit up and take notice to her because she has that kind of energy about her.”

And it’s that sparkle, coupled with her great talent, that causes Plocki to call her a “gamer.”

Take, for example, Feb. 9 at Crisler Arena.

Then-No.8 Michigan was in a tri-meet with Illinois and No. 6 Nebraska. On the final rotation, the Cornhuskers were scoring high on vault. Michigan needed a big performance on floor exercise by Thuener-Rego to clinch the upset victory over Nebraska. As her signature song, Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Jump on It,” played over the loudspeakers and the fans did the “Jump on It” dance, Thuener-Rego was magical.

She scored a 9.875, the second-best floor score of any gymnast that night, clinching the meet for the Wolverines.

The winner of the last two awards for Big Ten Gymnast of the Week never fails to perform under pressure.

“I step up because I know that winning or losing a meet can rely on one routine,” Thuener-Rego said. “I just love competing. I get such a rush when I compete. And I love being able to run back to my team and know that they’ll be excited for me as well. That’s my motivation.”

With all that confidence, it seems like this high-energy personality would never get nervous.

Right?

Wrong.

Thuener-Rego is notorious for her neurotic tendencies.

“I always get real nervous because I want to do my best,” Thuener-Rego said. “But I just tell myself I just need to go out there and show off.”

But that’s easier said than done.

Known for her contagious smile, Thuener-Rego routinely rubs her nose, touches her ears and wipes her hair out of her face before she performs. Last year, at the team’s banquet, a blooper reel showed all her idiosyncrasies.

“I have to do it or else I can’t go,” Thuener-Rego said. “It’s a little crazy.”

But it’s all a part of what makes Thuener-Rego such a vibrant and victorious gymnast.

And it’s a part of the reason why Plocki thinks her sophomore will continue to show off that sparkle.

“When these kids come in as freshman, there’s a maturation process that takes place from year to year,” Plocki said. “As well as she has done throughout her freshman and her sophomore year, and as much growth as I have seen in her maturity wise and developmentally, I just think she’s somebody who is going to have a great junior and senior year.”

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