Simbhudas a GymHawk cog


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Sporting pig tails and a white long-sleeve T-shirt with “Canada” printed on it, Rebecca Simbhudas walked from the training room to the gym inside the Field House ready to go through warm-ups with her teammates.

But despite her spunky exterior, the junior on the Iowa women’s gymnastics team recognized that her inner abilities are what have carried the squad so far.

“I work hard to try to put everything for the team,” she said. “Everything that I do, hopefully, will help lead the team to a better direction.”

Simbhudas undoubtedly has the world-class talent to do so.

The Markham, Ontario, native is a former two-time Canadian World Championship team member. She also finished seventh in the all-around at the 2007 Canadian National Championships.

This season, though, the 20-year-old is just now beginning to understand how to handle to pressure of being a top gymnast leading a team in college.

At first, she simply tried too hard.

“She has got to stop putting the pressure on herself to be more than the team can be together,” Iowa head coach Larissa Libby said. “Certainly, we do rely on her. Once she realizes not to put any more pressure on herself than is already there to carry the weight of the team on her back, then she’ll be fine.”

Those around the Hawkeye program might speculate Simbhudas is attempting to fill the void left by her graduated older sister, Jenifer Simbhudas — one of the most decorated female gymnasts to come through Iowa City, who now serves as a volunteer coach for Iowa.

However, Rebecca Simbhudas doesn’t see herself as simply replacing her sibling.

“I can’t really compare myself with my sister, because we both have different gymnastics styles, and our personalities are different,” she said.

Her other passions also help differentiate herself.

Rebecca Simbhudas loves to dance to hip-hop and R&B, and she especially enjoys soca, a melodic form of music popular in the Caribbean. Her parents, from Guyana, introduced their daughter to the music, which she became rapidly addicted to.

During competition, though, Libby said Jenifer Simbhudas compares to Iowa native Shawn Johnson, while Rebecca Simbhudas is more similar to Team USA gymnast Nastia Liukin.

The fifth-year coach also said she understands that Rebecca Simbhudas’ intense self-expectations have been somewhat stressful for the all-around competitor.

“Right now, the hardest thing for Rebecca is she is fighting herself internally,” Libby said. “She has put an expectation on herself to replace her sister, and I think she’s probably capable of more than her sister was.”

Teammates, such as sophomore Jessa Hansen, agreed.

“Becky has amazing gymnastics skills. Her skills are all beautiful,” said Hansen, who also noted Rebecca Simbhudas’ ability to teach.

“If I’m having a rough time, she’ll take me aside and help me fix a skill and encourage me. I think she’s really good working with people one-on-one.”

Gymnastics still demands the bulk of Rebecca Simbhudas’ time, which she said she is OK with — just as she is OK with being labeled the team’s go-to performer this season.

“She’s definitely a more seasoned athlete,” Libby said. “She’s very calming out there. Nothing really gets her overly riled up. She’s always just chill in the middle. I think that’s good to have around the team.”

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