Back in 2011, at the World Championships in Tokyo, Japan, Massachusetts resident and Iowa Hawkeye senior, Houry Gebeshian, made her senior international debut. Since then, she has graduated from the University of Iowa, became the third reserve for the London 2012 Olympics and has completed postgraduate study at Wake Forest School of Medicine; becoming a physician. After all this, you’d have thought she’d very content with her gymnastics career. But no! After getting back in shape for the 2015 elite season, she returned to prime at the 2015 Europeans where she finished 19th in the all-around final. Gebeshian has her heart set on a birth to Rio next year for the Olympics. Find out more about this amazing Armenian-American here as she answers nine questions we asked her;
- In 2011, you had your international debut at Worlds. What was that event like?
Competing on that stage was an incredible experience. I spent every moment soaking it all in. It took me a while to realize that I was competing in the same arena as the best gymnasts in the world. Having been my first international competition, I did not know what to expect. I had never competed on Gymnova equipment, never competed in an arena so big, and had only competed on a podium one time before at the NCAA Division I National Championships. Stepping on that floor was overwhelming but I had to remind myself that all of those external factors did not matter. I came to perform the 4 routines I had been training for months, and that was what I did. Unfortunately, I had to water down my routines due to a stress fracture in my heel that I developed a few weeks prior, so the actual competition didn’t go as well as I planned.
- You received a third reserve spot to the London 2012 Olympics. Was that disappointing? Or were you just thrilled to have made a reserve spot?
Receiving a third reserve spot to the London 2012 Olympic Games was both exciting and disappointing at the same time. It was an honor to be given the opportunity to compete at the international level representing the Republic of Armenia. Due to injury, I did not compete up to the level that I was capable of, and that is what was most disappointing. I was thrilled that I made a reserve spot, but I was upset with myself because I knew I could have performed better. I believe that everything happens for a reason. Being so close to qualifying motivates me to push myself beyond my perceived limits. I am much more focused, determined, and confident that I will earn a qualification birth to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
- You had an amazing college career at the University of Iowa! How have your experiences as a Hawkeye, both in gymnastics and as a student, helped shape the person you are today?
Thank you. Being an Iowa Hawkeye was an honor and I am always proud to say that I am a University of Iowa Alumnus. My experiences as a Hawkeye helped me mature both as an athlete and as a woman. Joining the collegiate team immediately introduced me to a family of lifetime friends. They taught me how to work as a team member and also how to inspire others as a team leader. As a gymnast, I learned mental toughness. Competing in the all-around every weekend for 13 weeks is tough on the body and the mind but all worth it when you are able to share the individual and team successes with your GymHawk family. Being a student at the University of Iowa was challenging, especially choosing Athletic Training as my major, but it encouraged me to put 110% into everything I did in order to just keep up. It taught me time management, resilience, and perseverance which has translated into my everyday life. The four years I was at the University of Iowa were the best years of my life so far, and I owe a lot of thanks to everyone who helped shape me into the woman I am today.
- You had a four year hiatus from international gymnastics until 2015 Europeans. How long had you been training prior to this event?
After having not done gymnastics, or really anything athletic, for three years I decided to make my come back to gymnastics in July, 2014. My ultimate goal was to be ready for the 2015 World Championships, but after talking with my coaches in Armenia, we decided that a competition before that qualifier might be good practice for me. I trained hard for ten months and was competition ready for the European Championships.
- You placed 19th in the AA final; how pleased are you with this result?
I am incredibly pleased with my 19th finish in the All-Around final! I have been working so hard the past few months and I feel that I finally was able to prove to myself, my team, and the rest of the world that I am a competitor and that I deserve to be on that floor. Doing so well helped boost my confidence that the dedication and commitment I have put into training inside and outside the gym has been worth it and that I am on the right track to accomplishing my goals. Hitting all of my routines during podium training and competition day at the European Championships was my goal going into the competition and competing in the finals was icing on the cake. It was an honor to make it into the final and compete with the best athletes in Europe. To top it all off, I made history by becoming the first Armenian Woman to compete in a European Championship Final. This is especially significant as this year marks the 100th year anniversary of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Competing at the elite level is my small contribution to our enduring culture that continues to defy the odds; I am proud to be a female Armenian gymnast.
- What other competitions will you be attending this year?
The next competition I will be competing at will be the 2015 World Championships. (in Glasgow, Scotland)
- If you were to earn a qualification birth to Rio 2016, what would it mean to you?
Earning a qualification birth to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is the ultimate goal. Looking back, I do not think I was ready or deserving of the Olympics in 2012. Since then, my perspective on life and gymnastics has changed drastically. Over the last four years, I have reflected on my career as a gymnast and can now fully appreciate what it takes to become an Olympian. I am much more mindful of the struggle and beauty of the sport. Since 2012, I have overcome the depression of not qualifying and made the decision to return to the sport after a 3 years hiatus. At first this was an extremely intimidating idea considering my age and the fact that I had to start my professional career as a physician assistant during my comeback. I have had no formal coaching throughout this process which requires innovative methods in self-motivation and critique in order to coach myself to success. Creating my own strength and practice schedules, progressions, routines, nutrition plan, all while balancing my work life to fund my endeavors has been a fulfilling challenge. I have always believed that nothing worthwhile comes easy. This process has been one of the most difficult times in my life, but I am truly blessed to have this experience. Competing at the upcoming Olympics will be the highlight of my gymnastics career.
- You recently graduated from graduate school in North Carolina. What are you future career plans following gymnastics?
I have actually not put my career on hold. I graduated with a Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies from Wake Forest University and have found a full time job working as a physician assistant. I work for the Cleveland Clinic in the Department of Surgery on the Labor and Delivery floor. I simultaneously am a full time PA and a full time elite gymnast. I also coach at the gym I am training at so following my gymnastics career, I hope to pick up more hours coaching alongside working at the Cleveland Clinic.
- What would your advice be to any young gymnasts who aspire to compete at the level you do?
The advice I have to young gymnasts aspiring to compete at the level I do is to not lose focus in their love of the sport. My passion for gymnastics is what has kept me going and as long as you keep enjoying what you do every day, it will take you as far as you want to go. I also encourage young gymnasts who share a similar desire for the sport to seek out a gym that embraces the same emotion for gymnastics. I started my career at Massachusetts Gymnastics Center in Waltham, Mass., matured my talents at the University of Iowa, and am now perfecting this art at Gymnastics World in Broadview Heights, Oh. All of these gyms were an excellent fit for me. Try and find a gym that fits your needs. There will always be hard days, but disciplining yourself to get through the hard days will help you accomplish the goals you want to achieve. Always have confidence in yourself and have fun doing what you love.
It is clear that Houry has a love for the sport that she has never fallen out of! I am so excited to see her at Worlds this year and too see if she can punch her ticket to Rio next year, an event I will also be cheering her on for too!
An article by James Greaves / editor-in-chief