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"I want to pass Abitur and Olympia"

The 17-year-old gymnast Nadine Jarosch is fighting for her greatest dream: participating in the Olympics in London in the summer. At the same time, she is in the middle of preparing for the Abitur. In an interview, she talks to us about double burdens, ambition and love fan mail.

Nadine, how do you become a competitive gymnast?
My sister used to go to gymnastics and I wanted to try that too. That was twelve years ago. I loved gymnastics from the start, so I kept going. My sister is now doing badminton, I still do gymnastics. I am currently training for the Olympic Games in London.

So the hobby has turned into serious competitive sport?
Yes, when I was eight I decided to do more and more gymnastics. First once a week, then twice, three times. I drove to Detmold for training because there is a gymnastics center there. Six years ago I relocated there my whole life and changed schools. I still live at home now, but I drive to Detmold every day.

How do you manage the dual burden of school and sport?

I'm in the 11th grade of a high school. Until the Easter break, I attended all of the classes, except for sports. And the ninth hour has always fallen away for me. That actually worked out quite well. But now I have to train more for the Olympics. My school suggested that I stop going to school until the Olympics and then take exams. But I didn't want that. Being out for a whole year is stupid. That's why I only continue to do my advanced courses and foreign languages. For that I concentrate more on training. Of course it is a double burden for me at times. But I want to do both: Abitur and Olympia.

And do you go to training immediately after class?
Yes, sometimes even before school. I train four hours a day, six days a week. Most of the time I don't get home until eight in the evening. Sometimes I still have to do homework.

Do your teachers support you too?
I go to a sports school. They don't want to put any obstacles in my way because they are naturally proud of me. My teachers help me a lot. When I have problems I just have to tell you. For example, I get extra tutoring from the teachers if I'm lagging behind.

Are there also days when everything becomes too much for you?
Clear. Then I sit at home and think to myself: Oh God, how do you manage all of this? I don't have as much free time as other people, actually only on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Sometimes I go to the cinema or into town. I try to do my best in school and in training. It is quite normal if it doesn't work for a few days or weeks. I have to stay tuned and not give up.

Are you very ambitious?
In any case, otherwise I wouldn't be where I am now. If you don't have ambition or don't want to, it won't work. You can't be pushed. Of course, I'm particularly ambitious in the competitions.

How do you prepare for the competitions?
In training I do my exercises and conditioning so that I can do the exercises physically. I train the exercises until the stability improves and I hardly make any mistakes.

Are you nervous about a competition?
Yes, in any case. I then stop talking. Otherwise I actually talk a lot, but not before the competition. When we go to the hall, I listen to music to calm myself down. My lucky charm is a little cuddly bear that my girlfriend gave me. I always have it with me.

And has it already brought you real luck?
Yes, for example last year at the World Cup in Tokyo. Our team made it to the Olympic qualification. And in the multi-stage final I was allowed to start among the best twenty-four gymnasts in the world and came in tenth. That was my biggest success so far. I was pretty proud of myself.

What do you hope for from the Olympics?
First I want to get there, that would be a huge event. This is my biggest dream at this stage in my life. And I hope that I will then be able to do gymnastics and not just be a substitute gymnast. I still remember how it was at the World Cup in Tokyo: The arena was full, everyone was cheering, it was a nice feeling. This feeling also spurred me on.

Are you already a little star at home?
I don't really want to be that. It's good that a lot of people in the city don't even recognize me because I have loose hair and glasses. From the newspapers, of course, they only know me with my hair tied back and contact lenses. At school, however, the younger students sometimes whisper when I walk past them.

And what about fan mail?
I get a lot of letters. Sometimes there is also love mail. They write that they like me and that I do great gymnastics.

And who is your own sporting role model?
I admire Oksana Chusovitina. She is 37 and still does gymnastics with us. If she manages the Olympic Games now, she will be there for the sixth time. You first have to be able to motivate yourself every time and not give up. I love how she manages to be in sports for so long.

Would you like to do gymnastics that long too?
No, for God's sake. I'm actually not really sure what I want to be later. Best to be an Olympic champion first. And then a high school graduate (laughs).

17-year-old Nadine Jarosch has been doing gymnastics since she was five years old. She is currently in the 11th grade at a sports high school in Detmold and is preparing for the Olympic Games in London. She is German youth champion in all-around and German runner-up in floor exercise. At the World Cup in Tokyo 2011 she reached 6th place with the German national team.

Addendum: On the weekend of June 30th / April 1st July 2012 Nadine Jarosch qualified for the Olympic Games in London.

The interview was conducted by Christina Kufer.