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Simbhudas and Gebeshian on the national stage

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | APRIL 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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Before Iowa’s Rebecca Simbhudas performs her floor-exercise routine, teammate Houry Gebeshian is usually right on the sidelines, cheering for her. Gebeshian’s voice overpowers the crowded and noisy arena and is the first thing Simbhudas hears as she calmly covers her palms and soles in a thick layer of chalk and poses gracefully for the start of her routine.

Simbhudas and Gebeshian are the Iowa women’s gymnastics team’s “one-two punch,” head coach Larissa Libby said, but the pair will compete together for the last time as Hawkeyes at the NCAA championships in Cleveland this weekend.

Simbhudas and Gebeshian first met in January 2008, when the entire women’s gymnastics team was shuttled to the airport to greet Simbhudas’ flight from Ontario “like she was the queen of the world,” Gebeshian laughed.

Because she joined the team late in order to compete for the Canadian team at the World Championships, Simbhudas struggled to adjust to college gymnastics her freshman year. But by her sophomore year, she and Gebeshian had become a pair.

“We were both all-arounders our sophomore year, and that was our job,” Simbhudas said. “It wasn’t really new for us, so we knew what we were doing, and through the year, we just got better together.”

By the end of their sophomore year, Simbhudas and Gebeshian were constant all-arounders and helped carry the GymHawks. By their junior year, the two had become Iowa’s “one-two punch,” the inseparable duo consistently leading the team, ascending the podium, and now competing on a national stage together.

Simbhudas and Gebeshian will compete as individuals and will leave their team behind while competing in Cleveland this weekend. Their semifinal will begin at 5 p.m. CDT.

Gebeshian will rotate through the four events with Oregon State and Simbhudas with Alabama. The two GymHawks will have separate practice times and will compete in the same semifinal but rotate through the events at different times.

“It’s totally new to me,” said Gebeshian, who will make her first appearance at an NCAA national competition. “It’s going to be completely different. I like being around the team atmosphere and having that support, so it will be weird without them. But I think the team I will be with, Oregon State, will bring me into their team so I’m pretty excited.”

Simbhudas is a returning All-American on the beam, and she will make her second nationals appearance.

While they will compete for the last time wearing the Black and Gold, during their four seasons with the Hawkeyes, Gebeshian and Simbhudas became the team’s stable leaders despite obvious differences between them.

“They’re complete opposites,” Libby said. “Houry’s strengths are Becky’s weaknesses, so they are the yin and yang of our team. It makes that complete package that leads the team. Becky really loves to compete; she’s in her element in competition. But Becky hates to practice. Houry is super great in practice but doesn’t really like to compete. They’re different in everything, the way they express themselves, the way the speak, everything.”

Because they’re polar opposites, Gebeshian and Simbhudas have become effective team leaders because they show their squad two different ways to be a champion, Libby said. Simbhudas is the fun-loving, goofy, quirky personality, and Gebeshian is the fierce, focused, determined athlete.

“I think that it just provides the example that you can get it done both ways — that you don’t always have to be serious and dominating,” Libby said. “While it’s a team sport, it’s individuality that makes us what we are and what makes us great.”


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