Under her name on a standard-sized business card, it says merely, â€śAthlete.â€ť If paying per letter, this will save Luci Romberg a pretty penny as her resume boasts the titles of champion gymnast, martial artist, stuntwoman and a spokesperson for the egg industry (a.k.a. "Big Egg").
"I love movement, I love sports, I love athletics, I love challenging myself," the diminutive competitor says regarding her unique background. "I was lucky enough to do gymnastics and soccer in college, which was a dream of mine."
Romberg was an 11-time All-American and an all-around national champion in gymnastics for Texas Woman's University, and also earned all-conference honors as a soccer player.
Now, she can add "freerunner" to that list.
I met Luci at the impressive Tempest Freerunning Academy in Los Angeles, home of Team Tempest, and a training ground for the sport's future.
Freerunning, a disciple similar to the French art of Parkour, is a form of urban acrobatics in which participants use any part of the surroundings as their "equipment." They spin off railings, jump from ledges, flip down concourses, you name it. Still only seen in the media sporadically, it is gradually gaining in popularity.
You may recognize it from scenes in "Casino Royale" (2006), "Prince of Persia" (2010) or "You Don't Mess with the Zohan" (2008), where characters jump from roof to roof and climb into upper stories of buildings without using stairs or an elevator.
"It's all about art," Romberg says. "It's artwork of the body. Whatever you want to do is what goes. In gymnastics, there are certain rules -â€“ there's a right way and a wrong way â€“- but with freerunning and parkour, there's really no wrong way of doing it."
(Of course, she says this without seeing me attempt it.)
Team Tempest consists of some of the most talented practitioners of that art in the world. And Luci is the only female on the team. Usually, freerunners become stuntpersons, but Luci was initiated after becoming a successful stuntwoman.
"Being the only female on the team, it's cool because I can learn from some of the best guys in the world," she says. "Y'know, if you train with greatness, you're going to be great."
They are a fun bunch and each one of them is given a nickname. Luciâ€™s handle is â€śSteel.â€ť I ask her if itâ€™s in reference to the character "Lucy Steel" from Jane Austen's classic novel "Sense and Sensibility." She, as most athletes (and non-athletes), I imagine, is not familiar with the character.
So I read her the description of the character I found on Wikipedia. â€śLucy Steele is attractive, clever ... â€ť I pause to let Luci confirm the description fits her as well. She seems to agree so I continue "... manipulative, cunning, and scheming." Again, I look to her reaction. She doesn't correct me there either.
But the nickname for her refers to something entirely different. "When, I first joined the team and I wanted to show everyone that I was tough," she begins.
The team had a get-together where steel reserve (a high alcohol content lager) was the beverage du jour. "I had one steel reserve and in the morning, I woke up with a hangover," Luci says with a slight blush. And so it was written -â€“ Luci "Steel" Romberg, to further complete her legend. I wonder if that ever happened to the 19th-century English literary character. Or if she could execute a back flip.
And then, it was time for "Steel" to show off. The Tempest Freerunning Academy is in an empty warehouse located in an industrial park in the San Fernando Valley. Part gymnastics meet and part skate park, it is a haven for skate rats who don't have wheels, a playground for the hyperactive. It was designed by Nate Wessel, an X Games ramp builder. (The "X" stands for "extreme," yet another reason the games will never be confused with the spelling bee.)
The 7,000 square-foot facility opened in April and a full slate of classes are being offered, for both kids and adults. In fact, the adult classes are sold out, according to another Team Tempest member Gabe -â€“ er, I mean, "Jaywalker." (He tells me his nickname is a reference to his "criminal" past.)
And as an adult, I ask him, where would I start? Jumping from one wall to the next? Swinging from one bar to the next? Hurdling large holes like I (my avatar) used to do in "Pitfall?"
"No, we'd start you on the floor," Jaywalker tells me.
I'm sure he knows best, and my insurance company thanks him. Wherever I'd start, I would have a long way to go to do the stunts Luci does with ease.
Nearby, she warms up simply by rotating her ankles and bouncing up and down a couple of times. She had remarked earlier that in her lifetime, she's merely sustained minor injuries from sprained ankles to a bout with patella tendonitis. (I, on the other hand, pulled a hamstring during the interview. Always remember to stretch before making literary references, young scribes!) The one thing she does worry about is her necklace and she removes it before performing. "It hits my tooth," she claims.
And then, she's off, like a whirling dervish, bounding, spinning, hurdling and flipping from one stunt to the next. It's uncanny what she, and the rest of the team can do, but they make it look so easy that the stunts themselves become merely canny.
"However your body expresses movement is what's right," she explains to me, "so that's why I love it so much. You can be creative and active and healthy all at the same time."
After watching her flip and twist and hurdle, it becomes clear that she has, in fact, described herself the best way possible. Any other manner and she'd need a much bigger card.