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Gymnast Profile: Annia Hatch

This Gymnast Profile, 2004 Olympian Annia Hatch lived a past life as a member of the Cuban National Team before she competed for the United States.

It was when she fell in love and moved to the US to be with her husband, she achieved her Olympic dreams.



Vital Statistics:
Date of Birth: June 14, 1978
Age: 34
Birthplace: Guantanamo, Cuba
Current Residence: Northern Virginia
Spouse and Head Coach: Alan Hatch
Club: Stars Elite
Known for: Being powerful vaulter
Current Occupation: Fashion Designer, Gymnastics Coach



Annia Portuondo Hatch was born in Guantanamo, Cuba, where she spent the first two years of her life.
Later, the family moved to Havana, in the hope they could provide a better living for themselves. Annia was born into a hardworking family, her mother worked as a secretary at a pharmaceutical company and her father was a military man.

Annia, much like many famous gymnasts before her was "discovered" when a gymnastics scout found her playing in a playground at the age of four.

"They talked to my mother and the next thing I knew I was doing Gymnastics. I thought I was going to be a dancer or singer until then. I was always dressing up, putting on make up, dancing and singing in front of the mirror." Annia on her beginnings in gymnastics Per Annia Hatch Gymnastics

By the age of six, Annia was shipped off to a special athletic school, she was able to visit her mother on the weekends. At the age of eight, she became a national team member and by ten, she was a Cuban National Champion, a title she won seven times from 1991-1997.

In 1996, Annia competed in the 1996 World Championships and took home the bronze medal on vault, behind Romanians, Gina Geoghan and Simona Amanar. Many experts and gymnastics fans believe that Annia should have won over Amanar and Geoghan. Despite the controversy Annia's performance was a milestone, she became the first Latin American and Cuban gymnast to medal at a World Championship competition. She qualified for the 1996 games in Atlanta but due to lack of funding from the Cuban Olympic Committee, she was unable to attend. Disappointed, she retired for the first time in 1997.

"It was very sad time for me," Annia said in an interview withWOGymnastike's Gigi Khazback. " I retired after that for Cuba. I also wanted to finish with a good performance like I did at the 96 worlds."

After that, Annia married her husband Alan, and she moved with him to the United States where they settled in West Haven, Connecticut in March of 1998. They opened up Stars Elite together. After awhile, Annia found the world of elite gymnastics calling to her again and she resumed her training with Alan as her head coach. At the start of the new millennium in 2001, Annia became a US Citizen and was now back in training as an elite gymnast.

By 2002, Annia had burst on to the US elite gymnastics scene when she won the 2002 US Classic over reigning national champion, Tasha Schwikert. At the National Championships that year, she finished the competition in fourth place and took home a silver medal for vault. Annia was favored to win the vault gold at the World Championships in Hungary that year.  Unfortunately, she was unable to represent the US at the World Championships.The Olympic rules said that even though Annia was a US citizen, she would have to have permission from Cuba to release her to be able to compete internationally for a new country. Cuba's Prime Minister, Fidel Castro, refused to release Annia. US government officials, along with former president Jimmy Carter petitioned  Cuba on her behalf. Annia had to wait till her international release in 2003 to be able to represent the US in international competitions.

At the 2003 Nationals, with her international release granted, Annia had another strong showing at the National Championships, bringing home a national championship for the vault and securing a nomination to the World Championship team.  Unfortunately, during podium training Annia tore her ACL training for vault and was sidelined for the competition.

Still determined, she returned to competition 10 months later, after surgery and physical therapy. Annia competed in the Nationals and Trials. She was named to the Olympic team later in 2004 for her vaulting ability. In Athens, the US team scored a silver medal in the team final and Annia herself qualified for the vault final and brought home a silver medal. Annia, at the age of 26 was the oldest American gymnast to medal at an Olympic Games and became the first naturalized American citizen and Latin American gymnast to medal.

After the Games, Annia officially retired from gymnastics. She pursued a career in fashion, studying fashion design and merchandising.  Her fashion designs were featured in runway shows and television and Annia had a collection featured in Fashion Week. She even pursued her pre-gymnastics dream of music. Annia has also kept her involvement in gymnastics by coaching. Today, she is a coach at NVGAgymnastics in Ashburn, Virginia.


Sources:

Wikipedia
NVGAgymnastics Facebook
Annia Hatch Gymnastics
WOGymnastike: Annia Hatch "I am an American But I Don't Forget Where I Come From."


For more profiles on your favorite athletes: MCSMaria's Elite Gymnastics Blog: Gymnast Profiles






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