Jazzy Kerber is in the final stages of preparing for the 33rd Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships, which take place from Sept. 21-28 in Izmir, Turkey. The senior at Highland Park has been in Russia since Aug. 28, and much of her time has been spent training at Russia’s Olympic Training Center in Novogorsk.
Kerber and Pioneer Press freelance writer Eric Van Dril corresponded through email recently. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Eric Van Dril: At this point in your training, what does practice consist of?
Jazzy Kerber: “Before Worlds, I have been having two practices a day, each lasting about three hours. During the school year, I have one four-hour practice per day. I spend about the first hour and a half doing stretching, conditioning, and ballet. Then I spend a couple hours working on routines, and after that, I usually repeat individual tosses or small parts of the routines depending on what needs practice.”
Van Dril: You’re working toward this competition all year. Once it comes, are you able to relax in the minutes before you perform? Can a rhythmic gymnast be tense, given the grace that goes into the sport?
Kerber: “I guess I would say it’s more about focusing than relaxing. Tension in the sense of worry isn’t good, but adrenaline is normal and can be positive. I try to focus on the specific things I can control in my performance, and I think that remembering what those are is mentally calming. Physically, the goal is certainly to be controlled and graceful, but those qualities actually require more strength and energy than you might expect.”
Van Dril: What is your goal for the World Championships?
Kerber: “I want to focus on my performance rather than places or scores. Boring though it may sound, my goal is really just to do my personal best and handle whatever situation I find myself in in a smart way. Places and scores are out of my control, so thinking about them while I compete would just distract me from focusing on the things over which I do have power.”
Van Dril: The United States isn’t known as a power in rhythmic gymnastics. Does that affect your mentality at all when you go into a competition like the World Championships?
Kerber: “That is something I have always known, and it doesn’t feel any different at the World Championships than at other international events. I do always know that, especially being from an ‘underdog’ country, I should try to do even a little bit more than required to ensure I get credit for the elements in my routines. However, I also think that in some ways, I can probably feel freer when I compete than gymnasts who are ‘expected’ to win. Overall, I take the United States’ status in the sport as a challenge to prove to the international gymnastics community that we are getting better. I think it’s something that can push me in a positive direction.”
Van Dril: What are the biggest challenges of trying to keep up with school while training and competing abroad?
Kerber: “First of all, even though everyone (teachers, a couple friends) is nice about answering questions, I do end up having to teach things to myself. Even though I often understand after reading the material and doing the homework, sometimes there’s not quite a substitute for having a teacher explain something. Also, I don’t always have good/free Internet access when I travel (although that’s been getting a lot better in the past couple years), or access to a printer. I’ve actually had some pretty funny experiences, such as trying to do homework outdoors on my phone at 10:30 p.m. because that was the only place I could catch a Wi-Fi signal and my computer wasn’t working. Or attempting to print from computers with everything written in foreign languages, not sure what the buttons I was clicking meant, and then sitting on my bedroom floor after returning from competitions, trimming the bottoms off the European-sized papers so they would fit in my American folders.”