Nevember 13, 2000
Local gymnast returns from Chile with gold
by Deborah Stone
Fifteen-year-old Brittany Billmaier has been a gymnast since she was six.
For the past nine years she has been training and competing in local, regional and national competitions, rising up each of the competence levels in her sport.
Gymnastics has been her life with five-hour practices, five days a week at a local gymnastic studio, Northwest Aerials.
Billmaier, a WHS sophomore, recently returned from a trip to Santiago, Chile, where she and three others from Northwest Aerials competed at the South American Gymnastic Championship Tournament.
She took fifth place all-around for the four events (balance beam, floor exercise, vault and uneven bars) and won first place on the balance beam.
Her team from Northwest Aerials won the gold medal for team competition.
"It was a wonderful experience," says Billmaier. "I had such fun and it was great to meet all the girls from the different South American countries. I tried to communicate with them, but I don't know much Spanish so it was a bit hard, but still I made some friends that I hope I can e-mail with in the future. Santiago is a really pretty city and you can see the Andes Mountains in the background. I had never been there before so it was all a new and different experience for me.
"It was especially exciting for me because I felt I did one of my best routines ever on the beams and that felt great!"
The opportunity to travel to Chile and compete in the tournament came as a result of a group of Chilean gymnasts who came to the Seattle area to train last year. "They trained at our gym," explains Billmaier, "and a relationship developed that led to an invitation to come to Chile."
Billmaier's specialty is the balance beam as she finds it the most challenging of the four apparatuses.
She says, "I love to learn to do the flips and various movements on it. It also takes so much concentration and when you do something right, it feels so satisfying."
Billmaier finds the sport very exciting and is not fazed by competitions. She enjoys the energy that comes from the meets and all the people she gets to know along the way.
For the past two years, she has been to the U.S. Junior Olympic Nationals and has placed second all-around on her team. To combat any nervousness she feels when competing, she uses various relaxation techniques that she has learned from her coaches, John and Tammy Carney.
"We have to take mental training to prepare us to compete," explains Billmaier, "and we're told to visualize our routines before we do them on the apparatus. This really helps us to focus and picture the perfect routine."
Billmaier's next important competition is the Level 10 Junior Nationals in Oregon in the spring. Level 10 is the level just below Elite (the competence level attained by those competing at the Olympics).
There are not many Elite gymnasts in the U.S. as the tests to award such a distinction are rigorous. Billmaier's future goal is to compete for a college after she graduates from high school.
She says, "A college education is my first goal, but I want to continue to do gymnastics because it's a part of my life that is very important to me. Maybe one day I'll get to coach others, which I think would be a lot of fun."