1. Name, Age, Hometown
Olivia Karas, 17, Chicago, Ill.
2. Do you have a nickname?
3. When and why did you first become interested in gymnastics?
My mom took me to a “Mommy and Me” class, and it just progressed from there. I began taking “normal” classes after school and was spotted by the school head coach who asked me to try out and then I made the team.
4. Do you have any good/funny memories from when you first started taking gymnastics classes?
At my first competition (I was 6 years old.), I tied with another girl on beam and I turned to my teammate and asked if I had to go again. I thought that was pretty funny.
5. When did you decide you wanted to compete? And, when did you want to compete on the elite level? What about competition appeals to you?
There wasn’t a moment per say, it was a natural progression after reaching Level 10. I love how I can share what I have worked so hard on in competition.
6. What is your training regimen? Was that a big change when you made the switch to competitive gymnastics?
Mon-Fri 4:45 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Saturday Noon to 3 p.m. There wasn’t a change really when moving on to competitive gymnastics. We are always training a lot.
7. What is your favorite event?
In the gym, I would say beam and in competition the floor.
8. What is your favorite skill?
Pak on bars
9. What music do you use for your floor routine?
Upbeat, celebratory music.
10. Who is your favorite gymnast or who is your “idol”?
Kerri Strug. Hands down.
11. How have you grown as a gymnast during your career, both skill wise and mentally?
I would say skills by always trying new things. I used to dread competition, but now, I love the opportunity to challenge myself and show off all my hard work.
12. How has gymnastics helped you as a person?
With time management mostly but has also opened me up to trying new things and taking on more challenges.
13. If you had to select one life-lesson that gymnastics has taught you, what would it be?
14. What are your biggest accomplishments or best memories in your career?
My best memory was winning Nationals after a bad foot injury. My biggest accomplishment so far is getting to compete for University of Michigan next year.
15. What grade are you in school, and where do you go to school?
I am a senior in high school at The Latin School of Chicago.
16. Do you want to compete in collegiate gymnastics?
Yes! Will be at the University of Michigan next year.
17. What are your favorite subjects, etc.?
English, hands down, I love to read a lot. I’m always reading something and I love to write.
18. If you plan to go to college, do you know what you want to study there?
Not sure exactly, but I am taking an Econ class now. I really like it so maybe Sports management. I’m also interested journalism, so maybe that, too.
19. What are your goals for the future, both as an athlete and after you are finished competing?
As an athlete, I want to stay as injury-free as possible and continue to love the sport and remember why I started. So often you train so hard and forget you love the sport. After gymnastics, I want to graduate college with a good degree and apply what I have learned in gymnastics to the work environment.
20. When you’re not in the gym, how do you enjoy spending your time? Do you have any hobbies or favorite activities? Charities?
I go shopping with friends, who are mostly all my teammates, and relaxing. Since this is my last year at home before college I want to spend as much time as possible with my family, too.
21. What is your favorite food?
Sushi, specifically salmon. I love salmon!
22. What is your favorite movie?
23. What is your favorite book?
Catcher in the Rye.
24. What is your favorite music group?
25. Are any of your family members current or former athletes? Which sports?
My little brother runs track and is very good!
26. Do you have any competition rituals? Lucky charms?
My step-grandmother gave me a handful of “charms” (stones with sayings, four leaf clover, etc) before she died when I was around 11, and I have kept them in my gym bag ever since and things keep working out. I plan on keeping there.
27. What’s on your IPod right now? What type of music do enjoy listening to? How about before a meet when you’re trying to get focused and pumped up?
My music all over the place! Oldies, Top 40, country music, and rap.
28. If you had to pick 3 words to describe yourself as a gymnast, what are they?
1. Energetic 2. Determined 3. Focused
29. What 3 words describe you as a person, not the gymnast?
1. Hyper 2. Creative 3. Diligent
Q: Do you have a nickname?
“My friends at school call me Liv.”
Q: When and why did you first become interested in gymnastics?
“Well, my mom took me to ‘mom and me’ classes when I was about 2 years old, and I liked it so much that I stayed and did normal classes at the school once or twice a week. My current coach saw me at the gym and asked me to do a trial run for her team for a week. And after that week, I just stayed with the team, trained with the team, and I never left after that.”
Q: Do you have any good/funny memories from when you first started taking gymnastics classes?
“I was never flexible, so when my coach would tell everyone to get in your split, I would always struggle. She would always tell me, ‘You’ll get better, you’ll get better.’ I was always reluctant to do it or stretch more. So, the girls would always laugh and say I wouldn’t make it if I was more flexible. Then, five years later, they’d all quit and I was the only one left. My coach says it’s funny that they all said I wouldn’t make it, and now, I’m the only one left.”
Q: When did you decide you wanted to compete?
“I started competing when I was 6, and I just kept going.”
And, when did you want to compete on the elite level? What about competition appeals to you?
“Competing is my favorite part of gymnastics. So I just look forward to it. I’ve loved it since the first time I competed.”
Q: What is your training regimen? Was that a big change when you made the switch to competitive gymnastics?
“Some days I start practice at 1:30 and go until 7:30, depending on my school schedule. Some days I start at 4:15 and go until 8:30. So I train a lot. All the gymnasts that are going to be at this meet do. Normally, after school, I just go straight to practice.”
Q: What is your favorite event?
“Definitely beam, but beam is my least favorite to compete. Whenever I get up on beam in a meet, I’m always so nervous, and I hate getting really nervous. I feel like I’m always about to fall off. My favorite event to compete is floor. But I love the concept of beam.”
Q: What is your favorite skill?
“Pak on bars.”
Q: What music do you use for your floor routine?
“I have no idea what it is called. It’s two different songs, but they’re not common songs that you would hear. I honestly have no idea where it comes from.”
Q: Who is your favorite gymnast or who is your “idol”?
“I would have to say Kerri Strug. I did the same vault as her, and I find it so remarkable that she landed it on one leg when I still struggle to land it on two. What she did was remarkable. I’ve had ankle injuries, and the idea of landing it on one leg is crazy. So she’s definitely my idol in gymnastics.”
Q: How have you grown as a gymnast during your career, both skill wise and mentally?
“I’ve grown mentally a lot in the sense that I’ve had a lot of injuries and been able to work through them, do some stretching and conditioning, seeing my friends training, and having hope that that would be me again. Since I’ve been 6, my mental preparation within the sport has matured a lot. Instead of getting upset when I mess up, I’ve gotten better at learning what I need to do better next time. Skill wise, I like doing unique skills. I don’t like doing the same things as other people. I think that’s something that people notice a lot.”
Q: How has gymnastics helped you as a person?
“It helped me a lot with managing my time. It helped me tell myself, you have to get this done, get this done, there’s no procrastinating. Also, it teaches you to never give up. Gymnasts go through a lot, yet, here we all are, all in one piece. Everyone is pushing through because that’s what we’ve wanted our whole lives. So it’s helped a lot not just in gymnastics, but in school or life.”
Q: If you had to select one life-lesson that gymnastics has taught you, what would it be?
“Bad things happen, and things don’t always go the right way, but it can only go up from there. It’s going to get better from there, so stick with it. You have to persevere.”
Q: What are your biggest accomplishments or best memories in your career?
“I had a stress fracture in my back in 2012, and last year, I came back and competed just beam and floor and won both events at state, so that was a huge accomplishment for me. It put me back in a good mental state, coming back and doing the best I could possibly do. It was just special for me. I went to Nationals in 2011 and got second in floor, and that was a really cool thing to do. It was nice to place high on that.”
Q: Do you want to compete in collegiate gymnastics?
“I do. I’m already committed to University of Michigan.”
Q: What are your favorite subjects in school?
Q: If you plan to go to college, do you know what you want to study there?
“I don’t really know. I’ve always wanted to do something with sports medicine and physical therapy. But I don’t know. My mind might change. But I’ve always wanted to do that because I’ve hurt everything. So I know about recovery, rehab, that sort of thing. But it’s just an idea right now.”
Q: What are your goals for the future?
“Gymnastics wise, I just want to stay healthy as much as possible and just enjoy doing the sport. A lot of other sports, the span of time you get doing it is so much longer than gymnastics. So I want to do as much as possible with it, try as hard as I can not to get injured so I can enjoy it for a while. Non gymnastics-wise, go to college, whatever I’m going to study, study that, and use whatever I’ve learned in gymnastics in life. Like determination, using my time wisely, stuff like that.”
Q: When you’re not in the gym, how do you enjoy spending your time? Do you have any hobbies or favorite activities?
“I spend a lot of time with my family and friends. I don’t really have that much free time, but I definitely want to spend it with my friends and family. Mainly, I’m with my friends at the gym, so there’s always gymnastics surrounding me –no way to get away from it completely. I just try to be a normal teenager for a couple hours in the day.”
Q: What is your favorite food?
“Sushi. I love sushi.”
Q: What is your favorite movie?
Q: What is your favorite book?
“I just finished reading The Great Gatsby, and I absolutely loved it.”
Q: Who is your favorite music group/artist?
“I really like Imagine Dragons. I really like a lot of different kinds of music, but I consider them my favorite group.”
Q: Are any of your family members current or former athletes? Which sports?
“My parents weren’t, but my little brother plays basketball, soccer, and runs track. So, the two kids in the family are athletes, and my mom, dad and stepdad were at some point actors, so that’s pretty cool.”
Q: Do you have any competition rituals? Lucky charms?
“The night before the meet, I eat pasta. I don’t know why, it just seems to pan out that way. And my stepdad’s mom, who passed away…I was really close with her, and she gave me these lucky charms I put in my gym bag for every competition.”
Q: What’s on your iPod right now? What type of music do you enjoy listening to? How about before a meet when you’re trying to get focused and pumped up?
“I listen to a lot of different music. It goes from country to alternative to pop to rap. But definitely before meets, I have a playlist of inspirational music. I don’t know what category that’d go into, but upbeat songs. I listen to that a lot.”
Q: If you had to pick 3 words to describe yourself as a gymnast, what are they?
“That is a hard question! Energetic, determined, and…I don’t know how to say, ‘enjoying myself.’ I enjoy competing, enjoying myself, but I don’t know how to put that into one word.”
Q: What 3 words describe you as a person, not the gymnast?
“Happy, excited, and hard-working.”