Anne Kuhm on moving to US and doing NCAA gymnastics

Anne Kuhm, an elite gymnast from France, is competing for Arizona in NCAA this year. In the fall, Gym and News, a French website about gymnastics, published an interview with her. She talks about getting used to the life in the States and being on a college gymnastics team. Follow Gym and News on Facebook for their updates on French gymnastics!

The translation is brought to you by K. Chevallier.

In May, just a few days before the French Championships, Anne Kuhm announced her retirement from elite gymnastics. Now, she has settled in Arizona, in the United States, to go to college and has joined the Sun Devils team. Her new life overseas makes her happy, and in a full interview, the former INSEP (National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance) resident shares her daily life so you can learn more about her integration, her life on an American campus and her trainings.

Q: First of all, Anne, how are you?

A: Very well. I’m so happy to be in the US, in Arizona at ASU. Everything’s fine, even though I live a fast-paced life.

Q: Can you describe your arrival in the US, and tell us more about how you get your bearings (on campus, at the gym, during classes, etc.)?

A: I’ve arrived in the US on Tuesday, June 27th. Coaches picked me up at the airport and took me to the apartment where I’d live during the summer. I was welcomed by my roomate and she showed me around the apartment. Her name is Kate and she’s also my teamate. On June 28th, I had a mandatory medical examination, which allowed me to train, then I’ve attended a student-athletes meeting, which was a presentation of the campus rules and athletics department. Summer classes I’ve taken started on June 29th. I’ve been registered for two subjects. I had classes from 11:50 a.m to 1:15 pm from Monday to Friday, and from 4 pm to 8:30 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I didn’t have any trouble understanding classes in English. Meanwhile, I went to the gym from 1:30 pm to 3:45 pm. During summer, coaches haven’t scheduled anything because it’s against the NCAA rules. They were only allowed to correct and advise us. The events in college gymnastics differ from the FIG code of points, especially concerning the set up on vault and bars. Indeed, the height for the vaulting table is 1m30 and on uneven bars, the distance between the two bars is very significant. It was hard for me to get used to this set up because of my Shaposhnikova. In order to keep this skill in my routine, we agreed on not extending bars to the maximum width. Concerning vault, it took me two weeks to get used to it, to take my mark. Spring floor is more bouncy so I didn’t have any trouble with that, and everything went well on beam. During summer, between gymnastics and classes, I also had to do a lot of administrative procedures concerning my arrival in the US, like opening a bank account, undertaking step for taxes, etc.

Q: Was integration difficult?

A: I didn’t have any issue to become integrated. American people are very open-minded, and would spontaneously talk to you. Moreover, there are new girls on the team every year, so the older gymnasts are used to welcome them, and make them feel at home.

Q: Did you have any difficulties adjusting to the climate?

A: Adjusting to a new environment wasn’t destabilizing apart from getting lost on the campus in the first days. But that was fun, though. There was always someone to tell me where to go. However, adjusting to the weather was tough because I had to get used to temperatures between 38°C and 48°C. Fortunately, all the buildings have air conditioning. Since I wasn’t used to these high temperatures, I followed the way of life of people living here: I stayed inside most of the time during the day and went out only to go in class, to the gym or to go back home. It helped me acclimatize, and not to suffer from the heat that much. On the weekend, I cooled off by going to the swimming pool.

Q: Can you tell us how practices work?

A: Official practices, i.e, when coaches plan them, have started on September 15th with a test. We had to show all our skills on all four events. Since then, we train twenty hours a week. Every day, we train on three events and end with a conditioning session. On Monday after workouts, we go swimming. On Tuesday and Thursday, we start with a 15min cross-training session, followed by a training on three events and then, conditioning with an athletic trainer. Wednesday is for conditioning. Friday is for challenges within the team and tests on events. The week ends on Saturday with a practice on tree events, cardio and conditioning.

Q: Is there any difference with gymnastics in France?

A: The training rhythm is really different. Indeed, everything is planned to the minute. Practice is short but intense. We can’t rest for a minute during practices, we’re always on the move. Lots of our workouts are done with weights (squats, etc), but we also have specific workouts depending on the event we train on, and lots of cardio (skipping rope, swimming, cycling, running). The atmosphere is really different too. We cheer on everyone all the time during practice. The level of requirement is also higher because the program is centered on perfection, which we try to strive for on a daily basis.

Q: Are you treated as Anne Kuhm, the former team France member?

A: I’m not treated differently than the other girls. There’s no special treatment regardless of your experience. The goal is to outdo yourself and give your best at every practice.

Q: What does a week with Anne Kuhm look like now?

A: Depending on what day of the week it is, my timetable could be a bit different. From Monday to Friday: 7:30 am – 11:45 am: classes 1pm – 5pm or 5:30 pm: gymnastics and workouts 6 pm – 8:30 pm: classes or mandatory course 9pm – 10:30 pm: homework Saturday: 9 am – 1 pm: gymnastics 2 pm – 3 pm: grocery shopping 3 pm – 6 pm: homework.

Q: What has been the biggest change compared to your life in France?

A: I live in an apartment and I have to handle everything on my own: grocery shopping, meal preparation, dishes, cleaning, and administrative tasks such as paying rent and monthly fees. That’s the first thing that has changed the most compared to my life at INSEP. It wasn’t easy at first. After the summer, I had to change accommodations and move out to live on my own. Also, before committing to something, I had to read all agreements in English. Housework is time-consuming, but I have to put up with it and my busy timetable. Climate is very different but very nice. It’s sunny almost every day, the temperature is high during summer but it’s currently mild. In October, the weather is still between 30-35°C, and I still wear shorts every day. I saw dust storms, and it’s something I wouldn’t have experienced in France.

Q: How do you deal with distance from your family? Do you feel down sometimes?

A: I can deal with distance, even though I’m about 9,000 km away from home. The hardest part was the departure from France. However, since I moved in, everything is fine. There’s wifi everywhere on the campus, and in most of the buildings so I use it to talk with my friends and relatives on FaceTime and Whatsapp. This helps me stay in touch with my family.

Q: Concerning gymnastics, can you tell us more about this season? Will you take part in all meets? Are there any tests?

A: Since mid-September, we train every day, and we’re tested regularly. In late December, we’ll have an “intrasquad”. It’s a meet to get you ready for the season. It begins on January 7th with a home meet against three other teams. Then, there will be a meet every week, all around the US. There are 17 of us on the team. At each meet, six girls compete on an event. The lineup is not defined yet. The goal is to show the best routines at every meet. The coaches will make a decision concerning the lineup the week before the meet. It’ll depend on the meets and the lineup of the opponents, but as for me, I’ll most probably compete on all four.

Q: Concerning college, how are your studies going? Isn’t it too hard to take classes in English?

A: Studies are going well. I didn’t have any issues understanding or taking classes in English. The only thing that wasn’t easy was to read a whole book in English since I wasn’t prepared to read books in a foreign language at school in France. But since then, after reading a few philosophy, American politics, and communication books, I’ve improved a lot. Overall, the American college system is different from the one I had in France. At ASU, according to their Bachelor degree, students have to choose six subjects that they want to take during the semester. Every week, there are “projects” or “activities” and I have to hand in from five to twenty pages. These are graded and count for the final grade but grade rate is different in each subject. In some classes, besides projects and activities, there are weekly online tests, and there’s a grade when the test is over. We have lots of homework, but as far as I do it regularly, I get good grades. For instance, I took two subjects that I haven’t chosen during Summer and got two A+. That corresponded to 98% of knowledge in the subject. I like studying and learning new subjects, but I admit that the rhythm is really fast-paced and exhausting. All in all, I take eighteen hours of college classes, plus I need at least twenty hours to do my homework and hand it in. Hopefully, transportation time isn’t time consuming, unlike in Paris where I had to go from INSEP to Paris Dauphine three times a week.

Q: Is campus life really similar to what we can see in American movies and series?

A: This question makes me laugh cause this was the first thing that came to my mind when I first arrived here. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not the case. What we can see in movies may exist on the campus, but it’s not obvious when you take a walk. There are sororities and fraternities for sure, but if you don’t belong to this “inner circle”, you don’t (really) become aware of that.

Q: Can you sum up your first weeks on the American soil in three words?

A: Heat, joy, and stress.


Photo: ASU Gymnastics



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