WNY's Walter Stays in Rhythm with U.S. National Team | News
WEST SENECA, N.Y. - For the last two years Angola native Hannah Walter has represented her country as a member of the U.S. national rhythmic gymnastics team.
While Hannah has been busy competing for the red, white and blue, her father Jeffery has been serving his country as a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve. He recently returned home from a seven-month deployment in the United Arab Emirates.
"What a great time to be with the family and Hannah being part of the national team, it's just great to be home," said Jeffery.
With her father back home, Hannah will next compete at the USA Gymnastics Rhythmic Championships, in San Jose, California. Last year, Hannah placed 6th in the nation at the competition. "I'm excited, he gets to go to nationals with me," said Hannah.
The 18-year-old began her gymnastics career when she was just two, with her mom Gail serving the dual role of both parent and coach. "A lot people think it's tough, but it's really nice because we can be able to interact more while we're at home."
Gail who's been coaching gymnastics for more than 30 years says it's been a thrill coaching her daughter to an elite level. "Nobody would have thought she would ever done it," said Gail. "Two-years ago, the director is like, where did this girl come from? Well she is from Buffalo, New York."
By third grade Hannah decided to focus on the rhythmic competition. While the ribbon event is the most visible, the athletes must also master routines with a ball, a hoop and clubs. "You have to be so concentrated, when you're doing your routine, you can't take your concentration off the apparatus," said Hannah.
Hannah graduated early from Lake Shore high school, and while she does take on-line classes at ECC, her focus is primarily on gymnastics.
She currently trains up to 10-hours a day, seven-days a week. On a typical day Hannah will run and do conditioning work for about two hours in the morning. That workout is followed by a ballet class and then four hours of practice on her routines at night.
Hannah understands it's a commitment not everyone is prepared to make. "By the time girls hit ninth grade they usually drop out. That's really when you have to make the decision to sacrifice. Do you want a social life, or do you want to be an athlete?"
"She loves it," said Gail. "It's something that we're able to keep focused with."
At the U.S. Championships Hannah is hoping to maintain her national team position with another top eight finish. She also hopes to medal in each of the four events in San Jose.
The U.S. will only bring one rhythmic gymnast to compete at the Olympics this summer in London. That position has already been determined for 2012, but in the future Hannah wants that spot to be her. For now she's happy to have her family's full support as they look towards 2016.
"It means the world," said Hannah. "I'm just so proud of my family. My mom for coaching me, my dad for protecting our country and to represent the USA in athletics, it's amazing."