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Simbhudas back in new role

BY ROBBIE LEHMAN | DECEMBER 17, 2009 7:30 AM

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Black and Gold still runs in Jenifer Simbhudas’ veins.

No longer competing collegiately after finishing her career last season, one of the most decorated female gymnasts in Iowa history assumed the role of volunteer assistant coach in order to help a young Hawkeye squad reach its goals in the upcoming season.

A native of Markham, Ontario, Canada, Simbhudas is one of six Hawkeye gymnasts to earn All-Big Ten honors three times. She earned second-team conference laurel as a sophomore in 2007 and first-team recognition consecutively in the two ensuing seasons.

“I couldn’t see myself, the way I finished off last year, just finishing cold turkey like that,” she said. “I’ve done it for so long. I kind of want to pass on the way I think of gymnastics. You want to pass on the things that you should’ve done during your career off to other people that you know will help them.”

In her final home meet, Simbhudas tore her ACL in the middle of a floor-exercise routine. She couldn’t compete in nationals, and the outcome left a rancid taste on her tongue.

A health and sports studies major, she currently coaches gymnastics at the Iowa City and Coralville Gym Nest in addition to her duties as a Hawkeye instructor.

Iowa head coach Larissa Libby was pleased she elected to return. With the GymHawks’ roster containing just one senior, the coach said, her former pupil’s leadership and expertise will be needed.

“Jenifer’s a really good coach,” she said. “She’s not that far removed from it. I think it’s always helpful to have somebody in the gym who has done it and can relate to what [other gymnasts are] going through. It’s always good to have that person that they trust and respect.”

Simbhudas’ sister, Rebecca Simbhudas, is a junior on the team, and the two siblings have a close but competitive relationship — especially so when they competed alongside one another.

But the younger Simbhudas said she doesn’t think things will change now her older sister is serving a more authoritarian role.

“We had, like, a little battle between me and her to see who’s better,” Rebecca Simbhudas said. “We were at the same level, so it might be a little bit different. But I’m not going to think about it too much because I know she’ll always be there for me.”

Another of Jenifer Simbhudas’ former teammates, sophomore Rachel Corcoran, said her new coach will bring the same inspiration and motivation she did in past season, just in a different manner.

“I think of her the same way,” Corcoran said. “I value her opinions just like we all did last year. She was in our same position, so she can help us through and tell us what to do, mentally and physically, because she’s been through it.”

Libby said Jenifer Simbhudas has a future in coaching if she wants to pursue it full throttle.

In the meantime, though, Simbhudas said she is still settling in to her position.

“I definitely have my withdrawals all the time when I’m in the gym,” she said. “At the beginning, it was a little bit hard, but I’m getting more used to it.”


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