An Interview with Khazia Hislop

Khazia Hislop, in red, with Trinidad & Tobago national team members Marisa Dick, William Albert, and Thema Williams

When Khazia Hislop was named to the Trinidad & Tobago national team this past spring, she became part of a trend of gymnasts with multiple citizenships training and competing level 10 in the U.S. while competing elite for another nation.

Khazia is a sixteen-year-old gymnast at Brestyan’s American Gymnastics Club in Burlington, Mass., where several of her teammates have also gone international – Talia Chiarelli competed for Canada in several major international meets over three seasons before accepting a full scholarship to the University of Michigan, Aya Mahgoub picked up a gold for Egypt at the Pan Arab Games in 2011, and the gym has also been home to Puerto Rico’s Lorena Quinones and Venezuela’s Alexandra Avendano.

In 2013, Khazia began competing in level ten, and finished a successful first season with a Region 6 all-around title followed by fifth place in the all-around at J.O. nationals; this year, she repeated her Region 6 title and then took home silver on vault at nationals.

When her level ten season was complete, she got the go-ahead to begin competing in T&T as an elite. She and fellow transplant Marisa Dick of Canada join T&T’s Thema Williams, who famously campaigned for support during her attempt to qualify to the 2012 Olympic Games and who is currently spending a couple of months training at Geddert’s Twistars, as the country’s WAG national team. Marisa compares the small but spirited group to the Jamaican bobsled team, because though the program is relatively new, the talent and heart from its central members could definitely get them far.

Khazia competes on floor at the 2013 J.O. nationals – check out her punch double front to split jump!

In June, Khazia made her debut in T&T, showing a demo floor routine at the National Invitational. She was named to the Commonwealth Games alongside Marisa, but unfortunately is sidelined by an injury and will not be able to compete in Glasgow.

We chatted with Khazia about her experiences so far, her goals for the future, and of course, coach Mihai Brestyan’s obsession with vacuuming.

You’ve had two great L10 seasons so far and made it to J.O. nationals both years. What was your favorite thing about making it that far and getting to compete at such a big competition?

I loved seeing different gymnasts from other regions at nationals. It’s awesome to see great gymnasts from different parts of the country all come together. It was also really exciting to think about how it was the last competition of the J.O. season and that all the training had paid off.

You made the Trinidad & Tobago national team this spring, right? How did that work with citizenship?

Yes, that’s correct. I got my citizenship through my parents.

I know some other girls at Brestyan’s have done this before. Did your teammates inspire you to try it yourself, did Mihai suggest it, or did you decide to do it on your own?

Competing internationally was something I had always wanted to do, and seeing Tal and Aya do it made me that much more excited. Both of them were huge inspirations.

Speaking of inspiration, when you began training at Brestyan’s, Alicia Sacramone and Aly Raisman were both getting ready for the 2012 Olympics. What was it like having them in the gym? Did they ever give you any advice or pointers?

I have always looked up to both Aly and Alicia. It was so inspiring to see them both working hard, and that made me push myself more.

You were named to the Trinidad & Tobago Commonwealth Games team, which is your first big international assignment, right? What was your reaction to finding out you made the team?

I was beyond excited to be on the team! Commonwealth would’ve been my first big assignment, and I was so happy to be going.

Unfortunately, you then got an injury and can no longer compete. What is your injury? Do you have a training plan for getting through it and back to competition?

It’s an overuse injury. I know that I need to keep working hard, but pace myself.

Do you hope to get future international assignments with Trinidad & Tobago? What is your biggest dream for international elite competition?

I definitely hope I can continue to compete for Trinidad and Tobago. I want to keep competing for them as long as I can!

Does your training change at all between L10 and elite? What about your routines – do you have to make changes to them when you compete at the elite level?

Some changes with my routines did need to be made to accommodate the new rules. I started double practices, but as far as effort, I still put in as much as possible.

What is your favorite thing about gymnastics? What events do you enjoy competing the most?

I love the challenge that comes with gymnastics. My favorite events are floor and vault, but I love competing all four.

Finally, everyone on the gymternet loves Mihai. What is he like as a coach? The biggest question on everyone’s minds – does he really vacuum the gym himself?

Mihai is a fantastic coach. He always knows what’s best for his gymnasts. Haha, all I know is that the gym is always clean!!

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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