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IG Interview: Annabelle Schmidt (Netherlands)
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Although injuries have plagued Dutch gymnast Annabelle Schmidt throughout her career, she is eager to lend her experience and determination to the young gymnasts she now coaches.

Although injuries have plagued Dutch gymnast Annabelle Schmidt throughout her career, she is eager to lend her experience and determination to the young gymnasts she now coaches.

Schmidt, who turned 23 last month, recently announced her retirement from competition after a challenging but fruitful competitive career.

At the 2008 Mikhail Voronin Cup in Moscow, Schmidt placed fifth on floor exercise, seventh on uneven bars and eighth on balance beam. She placed fifth all-around and third on vault at the 2011 Dutch championships, and third all-around finish in the senior division at the 2011 Pre-Olympic Youth Cup in Germany. Schmidt was eighth all-around at the 2013 Dutch championships.

Schmidt has enjoyed a mutually supportive relationship with her younger brother, Dutch team standout Casimir Schmidt. Casimir placed first all-around at the 2013 Dutch championships, 18th all-around at the 2013 world championships in Antwerp, and fourth (tie) on vault at the 2014 European championships in Sofia.

In this IG Online interview, Annabelle recalls the difficulties she has faced and overcome, and outlines her goals as a fledgling coach.

Schmidt with her younger brother Casimir

IG: After a long and successful career, what was the reason, or what were the reasons, that you decided to retire?

AS: I have had a lot of surgeries on my foot. The last one was in August 2014, and I still have a lot of pain now. My goal was to qualify for the European championships or the European Games but the rehabilitation is going slower than I thought it would be. So I would definitely miss it. My motivation is not 200% anymore and you really need that to recover and come back and compete again. In the past I chose gymnastics and my goals and forgot all the pain, but now I choose for my body.

IG: Take us through the injuries you've suffered and the recovery processes.

AS: In 2011 I qualified for the selection process for the Olympic test event in London, and I was so happy, but two weeks after that I tore my Achilles' tendon. That was my first surgery. I rehabilitated for eight months and tried to do gymnastics again, but I couldn't run or doing strength training on that one leg. I went to another surgeon, Dr. Kerkhoffs, and he told me that my Achilles' was too long and I had a chronic inflammation in my foot.

I had to have another second operation because of a fault of the first surgeon. Dr. Kerkhoffs did a great job and I had my second surgery in August 2012. After very hard work I was able to compete in the all-around after only 10 months. The doctors were surprised that I was able to do gymnastics again at this level. But I was in pain with my shoulder, and in September 2013 I had surgery there. It was not a very big surgery so I recovered very fast.

I tried to qualify for the European championships in 2014. I placed fourth but they choose the other girls. I regretted that. But I really want to compete at the world championships so I upgraded my floor with a double layout and full-in. After a few months the pain in my foot was getting worse, and the doctors told me that I may not compete at the national championships, which meant no worlds. In August 2014 I had my last operation. They removed some heel bone so my Achilles' was not able to bump against my bone. The last one was bigger than I expected, and I had and still have a lot of pain.

IG: While you were competing, Casimir was rising the rankings. In which ways did he encourage you to continue, and in which ways do you encourage him?

AS: He always told me, "No, never give up, you can still do it. If you train hard and you really want it, you have to fight for it, no matter what." He has always believed in me and watched me compete at the national championships in 2013. After that competition he told me, "Welcome back, sis!" I was really proud. I am never jealous of him and have so much respect for him, how he trains and how resolute he his. I will always support him and watch his competitions if I can. For me he is the best, and I think he can achieve so much more because he is young.

IG: What is your coaching schedule like?

AS: I am coaching the little gymnasts at the club where I trained, BATO Haarlem. I train girls from ages four to eight. I train the girls who are eight now the most, and they have their first competitions this season, so that is a little bit more special for them but also for me. It is different as a coach than as a gymnast, but I am really enjoying it.

IG: Based on your own experiences as a gymnast, what are your goals as a coach?

AS: My main goal is to make the best out of every gymnast, whichever level that would be. I really want that they train hard but always with a lot of fun. I make a lot of jokes and I am always positive and I always try to cheer them on. They are so little but have to train a lot of hours. I hope I make a good balance between hard work and fun. We have a small club but a very big group of young, talented girls, and I am really proud of that!

What I hope I can teach them about my own experiences is to work hard and never give up. An injury does not always mean the end of the world!

International Gymnast magazine's coverage of Dutch gymnasts includes:
"Her Finest Hour" – Renske Endel interview (May 2002)
"Miracles Do Happen" – Imke Glas profile (May 2008)
"Double Dutch" – Suzanne Harmes/Yuri van Gelder profiles (May 2006)
"Fresh Start" - Loes Linders profile (April 2006)
"Patient and Persistent" - Tahnee Masela profile (September 2006)
Tess Moonen on cover photo collage (July/August 2010)
"Marked for Success" - Casimir Schmidt profile (July/August 2014)
"Valentijn's Day" – Rikst Valentine profile (June/July 2001)
"Comebacks Complete" – Verona van de Leur/Jeffrey Wammes profiles (September 2007)
"Fame Resistant" – Verona van de Leur cover story (May 2002)
"Power Trip" - Yuri van Gelder profile (January/February 2009); van Gelder two-page center poster (June 2008)
"Just Verdict" – Céline van Gerner interview (June/July 2012)
Ready to Rise for the Netherlands" – Noel van Klaveren profile (June 2013)
"Destiny's Child" – Jeffrey Wammes profile (August/September 2002)
Gabriella Wammes profile (October 2009)
"Calculated Risk" – Lichelle Wong profile (May 2010)
"Perseverance Pays Off" – Lichelle Wong profile (July/August 2007)
"Skilled and Studious" - Epke Zonderland cover story (March 2014)
"The Flying Dutchman" – Zonderland interview (May 2010)

To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

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