Excelling as an Elementary Student-Athlete with the Support of Family and School
GEMS American Academy Qatar Elementary Student Excels as a Student-Athlete With the Support of Family and School by Justin Hamza Tyler
Whether she is achieving at a high level in the classroom or competing on an international scale in rhythmic gymnastics, GEMS American Academy Qatar’s Aanika Acharya knows that being a successful student-athlete helps when both family and the school community are supportive and aligned with one another.
“My parents encourage me, support me and are here for me when times are happy and when they get difficult. They always have my best interest,” said Aanika. “Also, I love my school and I look forward to attending school each day because they treat me like a person and always value my opinion as well as the opinion of my classmates. I am more focused and stronger because of the activities we do at school.”
Since the Grade 4 student has first debuted in international gymnastics competition in 2020 (at the age of six), she has found plenty of success, earning a bronze medal at the GymKids CUP in Azerbaijan, a gold bronze medal at the International Rhythmic Gymnastics Competition in the UAE (2021) and a silver medal at the Rhythmic Gymnastics Cup in Russia (2022).
Recently, Aanika placed fifth place in the ultra-competitive Level A division of the Gymnazia RG Cup which lasted from April 2 – 8 in Amman, Jordan. In particular, preparing for this event was challenging as she competed as the youngest athlete in her division. For this event, she has been training increasingly on the apparatus, a new aspect of rhythmic gymnastics for her as well as personally competing at the highest competitive level for the first time in her career. Even though most of her friends from her club received gold, silver and bronze medals in Level B and Level C, Aanika and her parents understood and accepted the growth that comes with setting stretch goals that she might not reach.
“She was upset for a while, but competing with those Level A gymnasts has taught her the best life lesson – to continue working hard and not resting on talent alone,” said Aanika’s mother, Swati. “Now, she goes over her routines over and over, comes up with new ideas to increase the difficulty level and works hard with her coaches to perfect her moves and techniques. She is even more enthusiastic and motivated to meet and surpass the next goals without concentrating solely on the end result.”
Aanika, who trains at a professional level 16 hours per week on free hand, hoop, ball, clubs and ribbons, began her journey in rhythmic gymnastics at the age of 5 when she joined the club, Olympic Stars. Within a few months, she was promoted from the recreational club to the competitive group trained by renown coach, Tatiana Yakimova, and Olympic athlete, Jade Faulkner. Under their tutelage, she won a bronze medal in her first international competition. Humbly, Aanika also credits her school for preparing her to be a comprehensive athlete. “Though she is not able to join any afterschool activities because of her schedule, her weekly PE/Gym classes have immensely helped her build strength and mental focus. She loves her gym classes and regularly participates in interschool tournaments. In fact, she surprised us this season by winning a gold medal as a triple jumper in a March QPPSSA track and field event.”
So far, she has not experienced too much strain with balancing the demands of her academic and athletic schedules. The teacher-parent-student relationship between GEMS American Academy Qatar (GAAQ), Aanika and her parents allow teachers to prepare a packet of worksheets, assignments and resources in addition to communicating through the app ClassDojo, as needed. Additionally, her parents naturally plan her competitions around school breaks and when she needs to miss some classes, her class teachers understand and support in every possible way.
In Aanika's most recent competition, the International Olympic Stars RG Cup in Doha (December 7 - 9, 2023), we are excited to report that she earned the silver medal for her club routine, the bronze medal for her hoop routine and placed second overall in the competition for overall score. She vied against competitors from 9 different countries in Level A with two apparatus.
Knowing the spectacular growth she has accomplished thus far in the sport, it is fair to say that she is bound for more accolades and success in the future, especially with the support of her school community and parents by her side.