Interview with Karina, 15 year old Gymnast, Cheerleader, Dancer, & Aerialist!

Karina is a Gymnast and dancer and ex Cheerleader who also loves Aerial Hoop and Circus skills. She is also a brand ambassador whose gymnastic photos and videos on Instagram have earned her more than 100,000 followers. She hopes to stay on at 6th Form and do a BTECH in Sports and Performing Arts with hopes to become a Gymnastics Coach and maybe even perform on Cruise Ships such as Royal Caribbean.

Interview by Daania Sharifi

Introduce yourself to our readers!

Hi, my name is Karina and I’m 15 years old (16 on July 3rd). I am a gymnast, cheerleader, dancer and aerialist.

How did you first get into gymnastics? What makes you continue doing it?

I first got into gymnastics when I was 7 years old. My best friend had been doing gymnastics for years before me and I always wanted to start gymnastics too. One day she took me to a ‘bring you friend to gym day’. From then on I loved the sport and joined the same gymnastics club as her. Gymnastics for me personally has been a bumpy ride, I’ve had several mental blocks but I still persevere through them. There are a few reasons I continue to do gymnastics... one of those reasons is that I love competing. I love the thrill, the adrenaline and the experience. It’s my favourite thing to do. I like performing my routines in front of a big crowd and all of my teammates. Another reason I continue to do gymnastics is that I love all the friendships I make with the girls and boys in my club and the coaches. They last a lifetime!

What is your favorite part about being a Gymnast?

Another favourite thing to do is gain new skills! When I gain new skills I love it when everyone supports you and claps. It makes me proud, the coaches proud and also my friends and family proud too!

What do you wish you knew before getting into Gymnastics? What skills did you have to learn?

From a young age before I even started at a gymnastics club I was flipping myself around the living room and watching YouTube videos on how to do certain gymnastic skills. When I joined my first club I already had the basic skills like cartwheels and rolls. I gained gymnastic skills really fast! I learnt my first back handspring when I was 9 years old. 2 years later when I was 11 I could full twist. When I was 12, I learnt how to do my first ever double twist! Also at 12 years of age I had my first backwards tumbling mental block. This block meant I mentally felt like I couldn’t do the skills. My mind wouldn’t let me follow through with them which meant I held myself back for years. Who knows what skills I could be doing if I hadn't had this 4 year mental block? To this date I still have the backwards tumbling mental block, but fortunately it’s got so much better and I’m doing more and more skills! I’m starting to find my love for the sport again.

How have you been coping with quarantine?

Quarantine has been good, actually great! I’ve had so much time to relax, sleep in, practice gymnastics and try new things.

What do you do to pass time? What are some fun things you’ve been doing?

Everyday I do some sort of exercise. Whether that’s jumping on my trampoline, a workout class or tumbling on my airtracks. I also make time for my family and friends. I spend time with my mum everyday and I make sure to FaceTime my dad and my friends! I’ve also been practicing my makeup and hair skills and I’ve been doing lots of online shopping.

Who is your biggest inspiration right now?

I have many big inspirations… If we’re speaking gymnastics wise my inspirations would be the British Olympians Nile Wilson or Amy Tinkler. I think their personalities are very good and they are excellent at gymnastics!

What’s so inspiring about them? Also, if you could ask them only ONE question, what would it be and why?

I love their fun personalities and their awesome gymnastics ability! My question to ask Nile and Amy would be ‘How do you overcome the fear of trying new skills?’

Who is your biggest supporter?

My biggest supporter would definitely be my mum, Tracey. She has gone above and beyond to help me with my gymnastics! She’s driven me to all of my training sessions and waited for me for hours and hours. She’s taken me to competitions and gone out of her way to pay for extra classes. My mum has helped me run my instagram account and she films me all the time. I want to say a massive thank you to my mum!

What is the big dream? How have you been working towards that dream?

My biggest dream would definitely be to perform and become an aqua aerialist in the aqua cast on one of the Royal Caribbean cruise ships. I’ve watched many many shows on the 4 cruises I’ve been on and by far my favourite and most relatable one was the aqua show on board the ‘Oasis Of The Seas’. I’ve been working towards this dream. I have my own aerial hoop in my conservatory and I practice on it pretty much everyday! It’s crazy to think I will be auditioning for this exact dream in only 2 years time!

You are 15 years and very dedicated to Gymnastics. I imagine a lot of time goes into practice. How have you learned to manage your time? What advice do you have to teens about managing school, sports, & their social life?

Gymnastics has been a very crazy journey. However, I wouldn’t go back and change a thing. It made me who I am! I’ve trained in the gym for long hours, even up to 15 hours a week. When I was training for that long my mental block was at its worst. I had to balance gymnastics training, mental block classes, school, homework and my social life all together. I had a certain timetable. On a Monday, Wednesday, Thursday I would go to school and then gymnastics training. Tuesday was the day I completed my homework after school since we never got an excessive amount of it. Fridays would be either a rest day or spending time after school with my friends or my mum. Saturday I would go to work (I am a gymnastics coach) for 4 hours in the morning and I would see my dad for the rest of the day. Sunday would be another rest day or the day I went out and about with my mum or my friends. My advice for teens who are trying to balance their schooling, social and sports life would be... never to cut your school life and friendships short. I’ve finished my high school years and wish I was back their with all of my friends. You might think school is boring but I promise you it will be one of your favourite memories. I would suggest to keep weekends free for your social life. I would say go to school everyday and train in the evenings of 1-3 days of the week. Therefore you then have enough time to complete any extra work from outside of school or to rest.

What advice do you have for teens who want to get into gymnastics and be successful?

My advice would be just to start gymnastics where you are, even if you only know the basics. Being successful doesn’t always mean going to the Olympics. For you to be successful all you need to do is to go to gymnastics with a smile on your face and obviously learn and practice your favourite skills but to also just have fun and treasure the moments! You don’t need to be the best in your gym, you don’t need to make yourself better than anyone else, you don’t need to be able to do the hardest skill you’ve heard of. I promise you that whatever level you're at in gymnastics, dance, cheer leading, or any sport... you are successful! When you get to that moment where you feel proud of yourself or your coaches are proud of you, your family, your friends, anyone that is proud of you... you’ve just been successful! Now, next time you do some gymnastics, walk into your gym or learn a new skill I want you to just live the moments and be proud of yourself. Treasure the moments you have while you are able to do them! If you want to be an Olympian you will have to train everyday and make some sacrifices to your normal life to achieve your goal and of course believe in yourself.

Any final thoughts you want to share?

I just want to say I hope everyone is doing ok! I know it’s a strange and rough time at the moment but we will get through this! Keep doing what you're doing and you will see results! Believe, achieve and you’ve been successful!

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