Czech gymnast Aneta Holasová, a 16-year-old who lives in Prague and trains at the Bohemians club, was looking like she’d be a big standout from her small country at European Championships last year, her final year as a junior.
Overall, it was the best the Czech team had looked in years, and with big skills and scores getting close to the mid-50s, Anetka was the leader of the team expected to make big things happen in Bern. But then, in training, Anetka suffered a major knee injury, taking her out of the competition and leaving her unable to do gymnastics for seven months, missing the rest of her junior career.
Anetka started off her senior career having to basically relearn the majority of her skills following her injury, and she’s still not fully at a hundred percent now, but she’s been working hard to get back at a high level. She was named as one of three gymnasts who will represent the Czech Republic at world championships next month, and we were excited to get to talk to her as she continues her preparation.
The meet will be the first ‘major’ international meet for Anetka, who has a lot of experience competing in Europe and even made the all-around final at the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2015, where she placed 19th in a super strong field. But in Montreal, Anetka will finally get to compete among the best in the world, the first stop on her road to making her dreams come true in Tokyo 2020.
How did you get started in gymnastics?
I was a really restless child. Both my parents are keen on sports so as a baby I took swimming lessons, then my mom brought me to a gym for parent and child exercise classes. I really enjoyed it so the next step was early gymnastics classes.
When in your career did you realize that you were on the path to compete at a high level for the Czech national team?
It dawned on me quite early. Unfortunately, there is not much competition here in the Czech Republic at the moment so I was soon selected for the national team.
Do you remember your first meet representing your country? What was the biggest lesson you learned from that and other early experiences?
I went to my first international meet when I was eleven. It took place in Klagenfurt, Austria, and I managed to win. I remember being very surprised. I hadn’t believed in myself very much until then. It has changed a little bit after this experience.
While training at European Championships in 2016, you got injured and had to withdraw from the competition. What was the injury? How long did it take you before you were able to get back in the gym?
I got injured right before the competition when I badly landed my FTY. Unfortunately the MRI showed an ACL rupture, a semi rupture of both lateral ligaments, and a broken meniscus. They offered me a surgery [in Switzerland], which I was happy about, because doctors here in the Czech Republic don’t do it until you have fully grown. So I would’ve had to wait for about two years. This would have probably meant the end of my competitive gymnastics career.
I got back to the gym three months after the injury, but for the next four months I had just been cycling on a stationary bike for one or two hours every day, which was really boring, and working on building the muscles again. My doctor allowed me to slowly start doing gymnastics again after seven months, which was at the beginning of this year. I did not want to rush, and anyway, I couldn’t.
While you were working on your comeback, what motivated you the most to get back to competition? Did you ever have moments where you felt discouraged, and how did you fight through it?
I knew without any doubts I wanted to return, so my comeback itself was the biggest motivation. It wasn’t easy to see my teammates practicing new interesting skills while I was just cycling, but I knew I had to be patient so I kept going. And when I was allowed to do gymnastics again, every re-mastered skill, even an easy one, made me really happy and encouraged me to keep practicing.
What were your goals for your first competitions back after the injury? Did you meet those goals, and were you otherwise happy with how everything went?
I came back at the 2017 European Championships trial competition. I didn’t want to qualify as I wasn’t ready then but the competition was held in my home gym and therefore I competed on bars and beam, with very easy routines. I just wanted to enjoy it and show I was working hard on my comeback and I did.
The first all-around I performed was at the Gym Festival in Trnava, Slovakia, in June. Although I didn’t do full difficulty, I felt I was coming back.
Going into worlds, you’ve had some very strong performances at meets. How do you feel your preparation has been going? What are you working on most?
Since the moment I was allowed to do gymnastics again, I have been working on gaining back my previous difficulty. I have been able to gain it on bars already. There are still some issues on other pieces of apparatus. On beam I hope to perform my old dismount (double tuck) and on vault, an FTY. My double full on floor is not on the schedule at the moment, the same with arabian on beam. I am also working hard on artistry and fluency in my routines.
Worlds will be your first major international meet as a senior. What are you most looking forward to about the competition? What are your biggest goals?
I am delighted I have qualified for such a big meet. I really look forward to going to Montreal and meeting all the gymnasts from all over the world. It is an honor for me to take part in the worlds and as it is my first major international meet as a senior, I don’t have particularly high expectations. I will just do my best. It will be great experience for me.
What is a typical day like for you?
I have an individual schedule at school. Usually, I’m there for three lessons and then I go to the gym. I practice from 11 to 5:30 with an hour lunch break. In the evenings I am busy studying and catching up with my studies.
What are some of your favorite skills you’re working on in the gym? Do you have any dream skills you’d like to compete someday?
I love doing layout stepouts on the beam. You can see me performing one as part of my new mount I first performed in Budapest three weeks ago, and I’ve even trained connecting three of these in a row!
Beam is my most favorite piece of apparatus but I like them all. On floor I would like to perform a double layout soon; on vault, a DTY. I had been working on it before the injury but now vault is quite an issue for me.
What is your favorite thing about competing in gymnastics?
I love the feeling when I manage to hit the routine. I am also happy when I add up to my D score. Now I’m working on a 6.3 beam routine. It means putting back the arabian and double tuck dismount after two back handsprings.
Who are your biggest heroes in the sport?
My favorite gymnast was Shawn Johnson. Of course, I like more gymnasts – Larisa Iordache, Aly Raisman, Elena Eremina, and many others! 🙂
What is your favorite memory or a fun story from a competition?
It was in a Czech team championships. Our last event was vault and I was the last gymnast to go. My good vault would have been enough for us to win the title, but if I’d had a fall or a big mistake, we would have come second. Luckily, I had no idea about the scores needed and I vaulted well. This meant the very first team victory for our club.
What is your ultimate goal in the sport?
My dream is to take part in the Olympics.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
Thanks to the Holasová family for videos and photos 🙂
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