Not too long ago, I received a text from my friend Christy Linder:

Media request granted!!

To which I responded:

I'm all in.

Here’s the rest of the story:

Christy and I grew up in the same gym.  Together we survived competitive gymnastics.  We leaned on each other when the grueling sport threatened to break us.  We are teammates.  Our bond is for life.

Rarely do we talk.  Texting works best for us.  It most closely replicates the millions of conversations we shared in the gym.   Time is of the essence when you’re almost next in line.  We knew to be discreet and keep it to a minimum so coach wouldn’t assume we were messing around instead of concentrating.  Punishment was not a risk worth taking.

Gymnastics is a sport of discipline.  Obedience.  Focus.  A constant test of emotions.  Mental toughness.  Self-control.  Darwin was right: only the strongest survive.

Canadian Victoria Moors

Canadian Victoria Moors

Christy and I were Level 10’s – the level required to have any hope of receiving a full collegiate scholarship, which we both did to Michigan State University.  While we were not elites – the level at which Olympic gymnasts compete – we both understand the commitment, sacrifices and  mindset required to continue to return to practice hour after hour, day after day, year after year.

Gymnasts are determined forces of nature.  They do not give up.  Not when they fall.  Not when coach says she’s not good enough.  Not when she’s dying to quit so she can just be normal.

German Sophie Scheder

German Sophie Scheder

Gymnasts are far from delicate, even though their televised appearance may tempt you to believe otherwise.  Gymnasts are warriors.  Machines.  Athletes.

Linder gets this.  She was a great gymnast.  Like all great gymnasts, she understands that no skill worth having comes easily.  Now her skill is gymnastics photography – recognizing and capturing the  true essence of what it means to be a gymnast.

A year and a half ago she picked up her first camera and started with the basics.  Since then she’s practiced a countless amount of hours, done thousands and thousands of repetitions, and made the necessary corrections to master her skill.  She has sacrificed time with her family and put her finances on the line to invest in her dream.  Along the way she’s proven herself by becoming the most popular photographer for UCLA Gymnastics.

Her candid results  have been breathtaking.  Electrifying.  Mesmerizing.

Christy Linder’s images are real.  She does not cover little girls in pretty boxes.  She  captures women.  Women who can bust through brick walls with fierce determination and  strength.  Superheroes who are not afraid to bleed in the name of victory.

Italian Vanessa Ferrari

Italian Vanessa Ferrari

Two weeks ago, I sat in the stands as Christy photographed The Nastia Liukin Cup – the pinnacle meet of any Level 10’s career – and The AT&T American Cup – the most prestigious elite international competition the United States has to offer.  When I learned she’d earned her media credentials to photograph from the floor, I knew it was a really big deal.  I was all in.  I booked a flight and watched with pride as my teammate continued to make her gymnastics dreams come true.

Christy Linder’s photos are the best gymnastics pictures I’ve ever seen.  She uses her lens to portray the complex sport of gymnastics with beautiful artistry, honesty and great detail.  The whole world is noticing.  The gymternet is begging for more.  The name Christy Ann Linder is becoming recognizable.  Elizabeth Price, Brenna Dowell, Victoria Moors, Nastia Liukin, and Jordyn Wieber are all fans, just to name a few.  Mary Lou Retton even personally thanked Christy for “capturing priceless moments” as she and her daughter, Level 10 gymnast McKenna Kelley, celebrated her Nastia Liukin Cup victory.

Mary Lou Retton and daughter McKenna Kelley, Nastia Cup Co-Champ

Mary Lou Retton and daughter McKenna Kelley, Nastia Cup Co-Champ

Christy Linder brings to the world of gymnastics photography her athletic experience, her artistry and her game face.  She nailed her international debut.  I’m so glad I was there to watch her shine.

American Cup Champs Sam Mikulak and Elizabeth Price

American Cup Champs Sam Mikulak and Elizabeth Price

Check out her stunning photo blogInstagram and Twitter.  When you like what you see – because you will – give her a follow.  You’ll be glad you did.

Brenna Dowell and Coach Al Fong

Brenna Dowell and Coach Al Fong