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IG Online Interview: Thelma Rut Hermannsdottir (ISL)
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IG Online concludes our annual series of holiday-themed features with this interview with Icelandic gymnast Thelma Rut Hermannsdottir. Pictured: Hermannsdottir with the Mexican team at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo.

IG Online concludes our annual series of holiday-themed features with this interview with Icelandic gymnast Thelma Rut Hermannsdottir.

For three-time Icelandic national all-around champion Thelma Rut Hermannsdottir, the holiday season offers time to enjoy with family, reflect on her 2011 successes and project her 2012 dreams.

Although Iceland is not an international gymnastics power, Hermannsdottir is doing her part to elevate the sport in this almost mythical Scandinavian country.

Born June 17, 1993, in the capital of Reykjavik, Hermannsdottir has been one of Iceland's most accomplished gymnasts of the current Olympic cycle. She is coached by Gudmundur Thor Brynjolfsson at Gerpla Gymnastics Club.

In 2009 she placed first on floor exercise and fourth all-around at the Games of the Small States of Europe in Nicosia, Cyprus, and a respectable 26th place on vault at the European championships in Milan. In 2010 she was 10th all-around at the Northern European championships in Turku, Finland.

2011 saw Hermannsdottir compete in her third consecutive world championships and win her third Icelandic national all-around title. She also placed 49th all-around at the European championships in Berlin and fourth on vault at the FIG Challenger Cup in Maribor, Slovenia.

In this IG Online interview, Hermannsdottir shares her perspectives on the challenges and achievements of 2011 and her ambitions for 2012.

Thelma Rut Hermannsdottir (Iceland)

IG: Looking back on 2011, what was your proudest moment in gymnastics?

TRH: When I look back over the past year, I must say I am really proud of my results and achievements. My proudest moment this year was when I was fourth on vault at the FIG Challenger Cup in Maribor, Slovenia, in September. I and one other girl in my club were the first Icelandic girls to compete at a World Cup. In March I became Icelandic champion in the all-around for the third time, and in the same competition, in the apparatus finals, I won vault, placed second on beam and uneven bars, and third on floor.

The competition season ended on very positive note when the Icelandic team finished second in the Northern European championships in Uppsala, Sweden. This is one of the best results for the Icelandic team and it was really great to be a part of that. At this meet I was ninth all-around. So, to sum up, this year was quite a good year.

IG: You have competed in the past three world championships. How has the experience of the past few years helped you prepare for bigger challenges in gymnastics in 2012?

TRH: My first time competing at the world championships was in London in 2009. It was amazing. I was the only girl (from Iceland) going but four boys from my club went also. The best thing about London was that it was held in the O2 Arena, the 2012 Olympic arena. It will be fun to say that you have competed in this very same hall. In London I got injured during warm-up for the bars so I couldn't finish (my routine), but I had already competed on floor and vault. The next year in Rotterdam (2010) was "my year," if I can say that. Everything worked out and I was satisfied with all of my routines.

All the world championships were amazing but the Tokyo trip (in October 2011) was the best. In Tokyo I had really bad shin splints so I could not prepare in the way I would have liked. But I looked on the bright side and said to myself that this is probably the one and only chance to go to Japan, so I just enjoyed my stay in Tokyo.

These trips have helped me grow as a gymnast, and I love to watch the best girls performing their routines and also during warm-ups. Every time I come home from world championships and other big meets, I am filled with ideas that I want to learn and focus better on. I like to watch the American and Russian teams and see how they work, and between years you can see big improvements that makes me want to work harder and increase my difficulty.

IG: What are your gymnastics goals for 2012? For example, learning new skills, improving on some events, specific big competitions on your calendar...?

TRH: In 2012 there are the Nordic championships where I was fourth all-around last time, and my goal is to improve and make it to the top three. Our team would also like to keep our second place in the team standings. Then there are the European championships (in Brussels in May), and my goal there is to improve from last year's results. And I would really like to compete at more World Cup tournaments to get more experience.

I would like to reinstall my toe on-Tkatchev (on bars) which gave me some problems last season. Double Arabian, double layout and/or double front on floor are elements I want to make ready for competition. I performed a double Arabian in London 2009 but haven't been able to do it because of the leg injury. These are the elements that I want keep working on.

Competing in all these big championships is more and more fun each time, and I am always getting to know more and more gymnasts from all over the world, which is amazing. The Mexican team is my favorite team. In Rotterdam they were in our subdivision and then again in Tokyo. We are kind of getting to know each other.

And I would like to use this opportunity to wish them and all of my gymnast friends Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Iceland.

IG: Christmastime in Iceland seems magical. Describe the atmosphere in Reykjavik during the season, and how exactly you spend Christmas and New Year's Eve.

TRH: We have a lot of unique traditions. It all starts four Sundays before Christmas. It is a tradition to have a Christmas wreath with four candles on it, and every Sunday until Christmas, we light one candle. Every candle represents something about Christ's birth.

Thelma Rut Hermannsdottir (Iceland)

Like most countries, we have Santa Claus, but the remarkable thing is that we don't have one Santa. We have 13. Therefore, one by one, they come to town and put small presents in children's shoes until Christmas. Every Santa Claus has a different name, like "Hurðaskellir" which is a Santa who slams doors. The day after he comes to town, every child swears that they heard him come. Another example of Santa is the last Santa, "Kertasníkir," who is a Santa that often steals candles. Some children put a candle in their shoe as a present for him. Our Santas were considered to be thieves and they were thought to know magic. But through the years they have changed and started to give children small presents during the last 13 days before Christmas.

In Iceland we celebrate Christmas on Dec. 24. My family has a tradition to have lunch at my niece's home and then go to the cemetery around 2 o'clock to visit deceased family members. At 6 o'clock my family has dinner and desert, and afterwards we sit down around the Christmas tree and open gifts.

On Christmas Day (Dec. 25) I meet all of my family for a Christmas party. Then on Dec. 26 we have a day named Boxing Day. I go to my grandmother's for smoked meat, but that is a tradition here in Iceland - to eat smoked meat someday around Christmas.

Dec. 31 is similar to Christmas in the way that families gather to have a good time. We go again to my niece's and have lunch and than again to the cemetery. We just have dinner a bit late and then at 11 o'clock there is a TV show that everyone in Iceland watches. It is a sitcom that is making fun of things that have happened in the year. After the show I go out with my dad and little sister and we blast fireworks. Then I will be going to celebrate the New Year with my friends. Everybody blows up a lot of fireworks and they say it's the world's biggest fireworks show.

IG: What are your New Year's resolutions?

TRH: I think that my resolution is to focus both on school and gymnastics. I have almost eight hours of school every day and then training after that, so it is a hard schedule. Concerning gymnastics, I want to learn these new and old skills I talked about earlier and make my routines cleaner. I am a bit impatient person and, when an element is not perfect after maybe a few tries, I get annoyed. But I use that to do better next time I try it, so it often works out. I have one year left at school before university and I am really interested in seeing if I could keep on competing in gymnastics, maybe at a U.S. university. I think that could be really nice.

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