Friday January 24, 2014Silvia Colussi-Pelaez: Fast progress after late gymnastics start
By Charles Kingsbury, UF Communications
The moment Silvia Colussi-Pelaez arrived on campus, she was already training, practicing her routines and gearing up for competition.
But it wasn't to perform as a gymnast for the University of Florida.
Rather, Colussi-Pelaez was prepping for the 2013 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships held in Antwerp, Belgium, as a member of Spain's National team all the while handling a 12-hour course load.
"I competed fairly well," Colussi-Pelaez said of the World Championships. "It was a really good way to end off international competition."
She finished 31st in all-around subdivision competition to cap off her second World Championships as a competitor for Spain. She also left behind her name in the International Federation of Gymnastics (IFG) code of points, as she is the first in World or Olympic competition to successfully perform a sideways aerial on balance beam. The skill is now called the Colussi-Pelaez but donít look for it in her collegiate beam routine as the risk outweighs the reward in the collegiate scoring system.
But more importantly, the competition served as a springboard for her freshman season as a Gator for the defending NCAA champions.
"Coming in as a freshman you know the expectations are going to be high," Colussi-Pelaez said. "I already knew what the work would be like."
Silvia has always felt the need to work harder and longer, with the mindset of being always being behind dating back to the first time she walked a beam.
While most kids begin gymnastics young, Silvia was a late-bloomer.
She didn't step a foot into a gym until she was seven-years old after a gymnastics coach spotted her at a childhood friend's birthday.
"The coach just asked my sister and I if we did gymnastics," she said. "And he was like, 'Wow, these kids would be good'".
Two weeks later, Silvia and her sister, Mariana, were enrolled in a low-level recreational class where she quickly began to develop a strong work ethic and passion for the sport.
"My parents never, ever pushed me," she said. "It was always me that wanted to go back to the gym for extra hours to work harder."
She developed a hunger to practice more routines and her workload steadily increased.
"For me, since I started late I always trained with people who were better than me," she said. "I was always kind of behind everyone."
So she trained harder. More vigorously. And by time she moved to Oakville, Ontario, Silvia was dialed in.
There, she spent five years training under some of the best gymnastic coaches: Lisa Cowan, a former Canadian international star, and Lawson Hamer, a gymnastics coach of 24 years.
She competed in several competitions, performing for Spain in the 2012 European Championships in Brussels, and tying for the all-around gold at the Canada Winter Games in Halifax.
More recently, Colussi-Pelaez was crowned the 2013 Gymnix International bars champion.
But as Colussi-Pelaez knows, earning a spot on any team is tough, particularly on the defending NCAA champions' roster.
"It's great to be a part of such an amazing team," Silvia said. "It's a very talented team. [We have] some great athletes, great people on the team and it's really an honor to be a part of it."