I Left It All Behind

My Name is Antonia Alicke

I am a student-athlete at the University of Illinois at Chicago and originally from Germany. I started doing gymnastics when I was just 3 years old. My mum took me to a gymnastics class one day because my older sister wanted to go. And well, I had to join her. Even though I was technically too young, they all allowed me to work out with them. Surprisingly, at the end of the day, all the coaches were really impressed with me and told my mom that they wanted me to stay. Technically, that’s the way I got into gymnastics. Even when my sister quit, I wanted to keep going. From this day on, gymnastics was the biggest and most important part of my life. Or, to be honest, starting this day, gymnastics became my life.

Training For Excellence

As I grew older, I went to different gyms and ended up at the Olympic Training Center where I spend 7 years of my life for about 30 hours a week. I invested thousands of hours into the sport I loved. As a result of all this work, I made the German National Team, competed at the Youth Olympic Games 2014, at different World Cups, and prepared for the European Championships and World Championships. Gymnastics was everything to me.

In 2016, I graduated from High School and had a decision to make. Earlier that year, I received an email from Peter Jansson, the coach of the UIC gymnastics team, who invited me to become a part of their team and earn a degree in the United States. At first, I wasn’t sure if this was the right path for me. But as I learned more about college, UIC, and the college gymnastics community, I knew that this would be my best option. The college system in Germany can not be compared to the one in the United States. If I had decided to stay back home, I would have been forced to choose between doing gymnastics or getting a degree. Obviously, education was more important to me but at the same time, I was not ready to give up the sport I love and live for.

Joining the UIC Flames

So, I decided to take a leap of faith and join UIC, leave all my friends and family behind, and approach the unique opportunity UIC gave me. I fought a lot with homesickness, a new language, and a different culture. All this for the opportunity to keep doing gymnastics. But I managed to cope with all of this and soon found amazing new friends that became a ‘replacement’ for my family.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to stay the same for two more years, as it was supposed to. With the decision to cut our programs and announcing that the 2018-2019 season will be our last one as gymnasts at UIC, my world literally shattered into pieces! UIC gave me such a great opportunity and teammates that couldn’t be more awesome. They showed me that even an individual sport, as I perceived gymnastics my whole life long, can be all about the team, staying together, and fighting with and for one another. But this all seems to be over soon.

I just hope that this year won’t be the last year in my career as a college gymnast and that my whole team will have the opportunity to keep doing the sport we love at the University we chose!


FanWord is embarking on a series of stories from UIC’s current team members and other folks whose lives have been positively, and irrevocably, impacted by UIC Gymnastics. As you read what UIC Gymnastics has accomplished and the lives it has touched, I hope you will understand the need for these programs to continue into the future.

For more stories on this series, click here.



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