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Latino Daily News

Saturday July 7, 2012

Obstacles Will Not Stop U.S.-Colombian Gymnast From Competing in the Olympics

Obstacles Will Not Stop U.S.-Colombian Gymnast From Competing in the Olympics

Photo: Jessica Gil Ortiz

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Gymnast Jessica Gil had to overcome some serious obstacles to qualify for the Olympic Games in London.

Gil, who has dual U.S.-Colombian citizenship, is a member of Colombia’s Olympic squad.

“I had an accident in the (2009) Gymnastics World Championships when I fell on my head. The hardest part was overcoming that and forging ahead because I felt so bad. I had reached a level to be among the top three, and when I couldn’t finish the competition I was really depressed,” she said in an interview with Efe.

The Miami-born athlete suffered the accident while competing in floor exercise and tried to do a leap but fell with the full weight of her body on her neck and head.

A month later she was able to overcome her gloom and took part in the Bolivarian Games, where she came in third.

“Thank God nothing really bad happened to me in that accident. They gave me some tests and didn’t find anything bad,” the 21-year-old Gil said.

A later operation to have her appendix removed was “complicated with peritonitis. I had reached the point where I could have died from the infection, but I recovered my strength thanks to my eagerness to continue, to be the best.”

Those obstacles were behind her when they told her at the Olympic qualifying round in London that she had classified for Colombia in 17th place out of the 35 best gymnasts in the world and out of a total 200 who tried out.

“We had to wait until the qualifiers for the last discipline were finished to be told the results - and when they were announced I jumped for joy, I started crying. I called my mom, my dad, I called everyone and I was so happy,” she told Efe.

This will be the first time she will compete in the Olympic Games, about which the athlete said “I still don’t believe it - it’s the dream I’ve struggled for all my life. I’ve been doing gymnastics since the age of 2.”

Gil spends several hours a day training in a Miami gym with a view to the London Olympics that start July 27, where she will compete in all the gymnastic disciplines. She hopes to reach the final in floor exercise.

“I’m very good at floor, I hope to reach the final. I did it in the world championships of 2009,” said the gymnast who suspended her studies in business administration to train for the Olympics.

She said she’s competing for Colombia - her parents are from Medellin - after failing to qualify for the U.S. gymnastics team.

“They didn’t choose me but the trainer told me I was good and asked me why I didn’t try out for Colombia. I did and I’ve been national champion from 2006 until now,” she said.

She said that “in Colombia they’re very happy to have me represent them, they expect the best from me and I hope to do the best for my country, because I feel that it’s also my country.”

The athlete was guided to take part in the sport by her mother, who was also a gymnast, and was a member and trainer of the Colombian national team.