My name is Abby Hasanov and I cannot even begin to describe the feeling I get when I am out on the floor with my UIC leotard on; representing the school I love while doing the thing I love… gymnastics. In all honesty, if you asked me a few years ago if I thought I would ever be on a collegiate gymnastics team, the answer would have been "no".
The Early Days As A UIC Gymnast
I have always dreamed about being on a collegiate gymnastics team since the day I started competitive gymnastics (age 6). Did I ever think I would get this far? Not at all. However, I was not going to stop. With all the tears, blood, pain, and sweat day in and day out in the gym, I worked my butt off to work up to my lifelong dream. Now that I am here, I would not change a thing. The relationships I have made with all my teammates and coaches and the environment I am living in are what makes being a part of UIC gymnastics that much better. I look forward to seeing everyone in the gym and just having the time of our lives.
Personally, being a part of UIC Gymnastics is something that I am beyond proud of. We have competed against the best NCAA teams right alongside Olympians. We represented the Flames with dignity and held our own. When I enter the gym, I can temporarily leave the stressful things such as school, grades, etc. behind. Because when I am in the gym, I feel at home.
This is my third year being a UIC gymnast. The past three years have been, by far, the best and most amazing three years of my life. Being a UIC gymnast has taught me so many life lessons and has really shaped me into becoming the women that I am today.
Being on a collegiate team doesn't come easy. It takes a lot of hard work, determination, and perseverance. Not every day is a good day. There will be days in the gym that you are “on fire” but then there will be those days where your skills just don’t click. But that doesn’t mean that you should give up. That is when you really start to push yourself. The life skills that I have learned through gymnastics have served as the backbone of my character and will prime me for future success.
My Favorite Memory
Throughout the past two and a half years, I have made so many incredible memories with my team. However, one of my favorite moments was our trip to Utah for a competition. We are UIC, and we are proud to be UIC, but we are not a top-ranked Division I NCAA gymnastics team like Utah, Florida, LSU, or Oklahoma. We had a lot to prove walking into that gym in Salt Lake City. To have had the opportunity to compete against such a big gymnastics school like Utah was one that I will never forget.
Did we all show nerves? Hell yeah. Did we let them get to us? Absolutely not. We were center stage in front of almost 15,000 faithful gymnastics fans! Competing in front of such an audience amped us up and really got the adrenaline going. It was a feeling that is indescribable. It almost felt like I was dreaming. We performed just like we have been practicing and proved to ourselves that we are right up there with some of the top schools in the country. We trusted our training, our coaches and ourselves.
More Than Just Gymnastics
My coaches, Peter and Mary Jansson always impress upon us the importance of living with integrity and learning as much as we can. Not only do we collect amazing experiences through competition but we also have formed a special bond through outside activities. I will never forget hiking up the big, beautiful mountains with my teammates and coach, getting a few bumps and bruises, and sliding back down them. It made for a great trip full of many smiles and laughs.
Flip The Decision
But now, experiences like this will likely not happen again. In all honesty, I am very confused and saddened by what might potentially become of the UIC Gymnastics program. To think that all I have worked for the past 16+ years may be thrown away is utterly disappointing. I have sacrificed so much over the years for this sport. I loved athletics but ultimately chose to focus on gymnastics. This meant giving up going to parties, dances and even vacations so that I could keep training. I spent more hours in my club gym than I did my own home. Now, someone is taking that home away from me.
When I am upset, flipping around changes my mood. When I need to let off steam or simply refocus, my go-to place is the gym. When I miss home, I go to my second home in the gym. This isn’t just the case for me. This is true for most gymnasts. This proves how we have always counted on the sport to be a constant element and bring joy into our lives. I cannot seem to wrap my head around the fact that my gymnastics career, along with its victories and sacrifices, would be taken from me before I am able to have one last hurrah for my senior year. Realistically, I always knew my time in gymnastics would end. However, I thought it would be on my terms and not so abrupt. I will not be the same person I am today without the one thing that has always seemed to define me.
The Gymnastics Community Is One Of A Kind
In my opinion, this decision will have a drastic impact on the entire gymnastics community, extending far beyond the collegiate level. To think that other young men and women will lose out on the experience of being an NCAA Division I gymnast is heartbreaking. So many dedicated gymnasts strive to compete at this level. With so few programs across the country, elite gymnasts do not always get an opportunity to live their dream. If the programs at UIC are discontinued, those chances become even slimmer.
The decision to eliminate the UIC gymnastics program just took away part of that dream. Ask any young girl to name an athlete they admire (any athlete), and I guarantee that Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas will be at the top of that list! Not even an hour after we received the gut-wrenching news that the Athletic Director chose to eliminate the Men’s and Women’s gymnastics program at UIC, other college teams were contacting us asking what they could do to help “flip the decision”. This just shows how fast information travels and that even our “rivals” in the gymnastics community are willing to do whatever they can to help us.
This sport brings people together. Only another gymnast can fully grasp what we have all gone through to make it to this point in our lives. There is a special connection and bond that we share. Although we may represent different teams, we truly have an appreciation for a rock-solid routine or a skill that is performed with perfection. We route for one another, we congratulate one another, and we understand each other’s disappointments.
UIC Athletics boasts “Together as One” and this phrase represents the entire gymnastics community!