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GB’s Carter on NCAA Life: ‘It’s An Awesome Thing, Really’
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British national team member Hamish Carter has found a new academic and training home at the University of Illinois, where he heads into his sophomore year with big goals for more international and collegiate success.

Born November 24, 1998, in West Bridgford, Nottingham, Carter trained at Notts School of Gymnastics until the age of 12. He then moved to Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham , where he trained under coach Lee Woolls at City of Birmingham.

Carter finished second all-around at the 2015 British Under-18 Championships, third all-around at the 2016 British Under-18 Championships, 10th (tie) all-around at the 2017 British Championships and fifth all-around at the 2018 British Championships. A genuine all-arounder, he has won at least one medal on five of the six apparatuses in the junior or senior level at the British Championships.

Carter’s international achievements also span the junior and senior levels. He was a team gold medalist and floor exercise silver medalist for Great Britain at the 2015 European Youth Olympic Festival. He represented Scotland at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, where he placed sixth all-around, fourth on floor exercise and eighth on high bar.

In his freshman (2018-2019) season at the University of Illinois, he earned NCAA All-American honors on high bar, the apparatus he won at the Big 10 conference championships.

The ambitious Carter recently shared with IG Online his thoughts on representing himself well at the national, international and collegiate levels.

IG: You have had success at the junior international, senior international and U.S. collegiate levels. What has been the key to your apparently smooth transition from one level to the next?

HC: After I completed my A-levels exams in 2017 at Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School, I decided to train full-time at the GMAC centre in Perry Barr, Birmingham. At this time, I was relieved of my rigorous academic schedule and was able to dedicate many more hours to my training. I went from 23 to 32 hours a week, which initially took a great toll on my body. I developed a few repetitive injuries, some of which put me out of competitions. But within in a few months, I had become used to the increase in workload and the extra hours in the gym, and noticed it began to strengthen me physically and mentally. I acquired a toughness. 
 Also, none of this would’ve been possible without the constant support of my family — my mum, dad and brother. My parents have picked me up at my lowest and helped me get to where I am today, which happens to be thousands of miles from them. They have done nothing but give unconditionally to me and my love for the sport, which I why I owe a lot of my success to them.

IG: What led to your decision to compete for a U.S. university, and what made you choose the University of Illinois?

HC: Really, this all happened by complete chance. I was catching up with an old coach of mine, Nick Blanton, when I casually asked him about the NCAA and, should I wish to ever go, how I would go about it. Nick coached me at Notts School of Gymnastics and was an NCAA gymnast himself in his day. He is also very close friends with (University of Illinois head coach) Justin Spring and was able to put me in contact with him, and from there things just took off. I was already aware of the NCAA and the University of Illinois in particular, but just never considered it an opportunity for me. Earlier in 2018, Australian gymnast and good friend of mine, Clay Stephens, committed to the University of Illinois.

IG: Given the timing of your university studies and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, what is your plan for combining your NCAA study/competitive obligations with the chance you have to try for Tokyo?

HC: The initial reason I came to the NCAA was because I had found the place where I could become the best gymnast I could possibly be. My move was purely to further my chances of making it to major championships and becoming an Olympian, Tokyo and beyond. But a huge benefit of me joining the NCAA is I can gain a degree whilst doing that. The school has around 500 student-athletes, so it is expert in dealing with academically driven athletes. I have everyone’s total support in fulfilling my dreams outside of my collegiate career and studies. The gymnastics team has access to an academic support system and is in direct contact with an academic counselor at all times. We have specially made class schedules that make balancing our studies with our training plans as smooth and efficient as possible. Although there is not much let-up from studies and my schooling commitments, here is really the best place to do it. Going into next semester I’ll be continuing with my chemistry and kinesiology classes. As our official NCAA competition season ended in April, I was able to start planning new and upgraded routines for my return to the U.K. in August. I plan to compete in the London Open and the British Team Championships with the hopes of qualifying to the World Championships in October, which will be the true beginning of my senior gymnastics journey.

IG: How does the NCAA’s restriction on training hours impact your international program, for better and for worse?

HC: With classes normally running to midday, just before usual practice hours start, there are only so many hours we can physically spend in the gym. However, my new training schedule here in Illinois suits me much better than my previous one. My training is very efficient. I would describe it now as quality over quantity. I have very clear and very well thought-out goals for each piece every day, even down to every go I take. My coach, Daniel Ribeiro, and I are constantly planning my progression with the very smallest of details. All in all, if I am fitter and healthier, whether that be because I’m training 20 or 40 hours, I’m happy. I’ve found a great formula to allow me to train at my best.

IG: What is your agenda for training and competition between now and Tokyo?

HC: As I mentioned, I am traveling back home to compete in the two World Championships qualifiers that British Gymnastics is hosting to help me cement a solid position in the G.B. senior national team. After that I will come back to Illinois to continue preparations for any internationals that come up and the beginning of my 2020 college season. Over the years, as my gymnastics continues to develop, I hope to be a regular in the major championships teams for my country.

IG: How are you coordinating your training between your longtime club coaches and your university coaches?

HC: I remain in close contact with my head national coaches, Paul Hall and Barry Collie. I share my progress with them and I’m kept informed of any potential international competitions which suit my annual schedule. Both are hugely supportive of my collegiate commitments and am happy that I am progressing so well in my time here. I also remain in close contact with Phil Barrow, gymnastics development officer at Birmingham City Council, who helps me greatly in arranging club commitments and competitions on my return to the U.K.

IG: What aspects of U.S. life have been enlightening, difficult or amusing to you?

HC: At Illinois, we do extensive work on building team philosophy and culture. In our locker room, we have our “Core Values” plastered on the wall. They are Preparation, Purpose, Passion, Growth Mindset, Fight, Illini Pride and Attitude. … One thing I will forever be grateful for is the brotherhood and bond I have with my teammates that is created by the NCAA. I am even luckier to still have that relationship with my Birmingham teammates Joe Fraser, Joshua Nathan, Dom Cunningham, Donell Osbourne and Korben Fellows back home.

For our Spring Break, we spent an extra week at Penn State and trained at the famous International Gymnastics Center, a place I grew up watching on YouTube. That of course led to some great memories that we shared together. But some of my fondest memories so far come from spending my time with my class at IT (Illini Tower, freshman dorms). As a class, we would come home from our practice, and finish any homework or studies we had as quickly as possible, just so we could hang out together. You develop very strong relationships with all of your teammates over your NCAA career, but your class never leaves your side. We all came in together as freshmen, and will finish our college careers together as seniors in time.

IG: For how many more years do hope to represent Scotland and/or Great Britain?

HC: Simply, for as long as I can. My coach Dan is totally invested in my journey. He recognizes my full potential in the sport, my strengths, my character and my emotional needs intrinsically. For this reason, I don’t doubt that I will be able to a strong and consistent member of the GB team in my senior years. The 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, where I will get to represent Scotland at my second games, happen just a few months after I am set to officially graduate from the university. And of course the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris will be fast approaching once my time here at Illinois is done, so I plan to be as ready for that as possible.

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