Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cartwheels in.....


It was very difficult to find much information in English, but gymnastics seems to be quite a popular sport in Iceland, which is unsurprising perhaps, because of the need for its population to involve themselves in indoor activities. There seems to be many gym clubs with many athletes in various parts of Iceland, as well as a strong team gymnastics culture. Due to population, however, there seems to be a lack of coaches to make its gymnasts an international force. The Icelandic National team compete in club meets in Sweden, as well as European, Northern European and World gymnastics championships. The highest ranking gymnast at the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart was ranked 127th in the individual qualifications.

In an endeavor to improve their program, Iceland, like many countries, turned to Romania, to advertise for potential coaches. Candidates were invited to apply as a couple or as two individuals who were willing to work together. They would be living in a town called that had a population of eleven thousand people to teach artistic gymnastics and trampolining to 260 girls over a thirty hour working week. Another club in Gerpla advertised for coaches too, for the 1400 hundred-member-strong club, claiming that most members of the Icelandic national team had recently come from there in order to entice would-be coaches.

Ingibjorg H. Barnasson was very active in the women's liberation movement in Iceland and one of the pioneering teachers of school gymnastics. After attending the Women's School in Reykjavik, she continued her studies in Denmark, graduating in gymnastics.
She spent years traveling through countries like Switzerland and Germany in order to learn more about teaching. She taught gymnastics in the children's school of Reykjavik before becoming the principal.

Stano, writer of an Icelandic gymnastics blog, worked a as coach in a rapidly developing club called Fimleikadiel Keflavik until 1998 in Iceland. He describes working in a place so small that the apparatus had to be moved in and out of place before and after every practice. He fondly describes the enthusiasm and love for gymnastics from the students and the people around him, but remembers it as being very difficult to teach the sport at a high level. He must have had some success though, as three of his girls had made the Icelandic National Team. He also must have been a well-loved coach because in his blog he includes a letter by one of his former students who, though having grown up and having jobs and children, wrote of sitting down and watching old gymnastics videos together with another girl who took his classes and having great memories of their time in the sport.

Ragnhildur Steinunn was Stano's most successful student. He describes her as "never the leader of the group, but the one who was working while everyone was having a break." He described how she sacrificed a vacation to the Canary Islands in order to compete at the Icelandic Championships. It must have been worth the sacrifice for her because she won the first medal the club had received in ten years with a bronze on beam and over the years became on of Iceland's greatest gymnasts.

Gisli Gardarsson,an Icelandic theater director working all over the world, has not forgotten his past in gymnastics (edit!) In an article in Time Out New York magazine, he is described as being incredibly successful in his short career, having had work commissioned by the Barbican in London, and having had actors like Jude Law and Sean Connery vying for parts in his plays. He tells the journalist that he gave up being a nationally competitive gymnast mostly for financial reasons, but takes the physicality of his past career into his new one. "Because of my training, I know what the human body can do. And then we train intensively until the actors can do it too!"

Gigja Hermannsson is one of many U.S gymnasts who train in the states but compete for their native country. Though not yet an elite gymnast at the time of the article written about her in the Almaden Valley Times, she was able to compete for the Icelandic team at the 2003 Anaheim World Championship. This, however, was not an easy task, as Gigja had to overcome a debilitating bout on mononucleosis, in order to train and compete. Gigja came out of the Worlds ranked 124th in the world. Her coach, Donna Craig, said opf her achievement, "When the big day finally arrived, Gigja did a terrific job. Who would have ever dreamed that a young girl from the Almaden Valley could have fought through mono and propelled herself into the world scene in just four months? I am so proud of her."

(note, if any natives are reading this, please excuse dodgy spelling of Icelandic names!)


  1. Interesting article - but this sentence gave me pause! :D

    "Gisli Gardarsson,an Icelandic theater director working all over the world has not forgotten his pasty in gymnastics."

  2. Hi!
    Teamgym is very popular in Iceland, they actually have a womens team who places 2nd in the european championships in Ostrava 2006! And on friday, they will compete again in the 2008 europeans in Ghent! :):):)

  3. I went to Iceland once. At the airport, they had these posters all over the place showing pictures of Icelanders with their names and the meanings of their names. I think I remember one poster had a (female) gymnast on it.

    Also, I would think that the Icelanders' relatively tall stature would hurt their gymnastics potential.

  4. Hee hee! That was a great mis-spell! See how much I need a new computer so I am not always writing this darn thing on other people's computers and always in too much of a hurry to edit properly!