Since his move to America, Hamish Carter is currently studying at the University of Illinois, and whilst continuing with Gymnastics, he is hoping to return to the UK this August to compete at events here. Hamish recently gave us an update on his new life in America and being a University student.
Last year, after my amazing Commonwealth experience, I entered into my rehab phase for a wrist injury I had been battling for some time. I continued to train but took time off competitions to rest my wrist and learn some new skills. Coming to the end of the year I was simply catching up with my old coach, Nick Blanton who coached me in my early teens at Notts School of Gymnastics, when I mentioned my interest in joining the NCAA at some point in my career. Nick being close friends with Justin Spring, head coach at the University of Illinois, was able to put me in contact with the school immediately, and from there things took off! From what I’ve heard, college recruits take one – two years to prepare for their new life as a student-athlete, visiting up to five colleges of their choice. I didn’t have this opportunity as I only stumbled on the chance in the November of 2018, giving me just over two months to finalise the entire process.
In early December, just a few weeks into talks with the school, I went out on my recruitment trip where my eyes were opened to a whole new life. I felt instantly connected with the programme, the boys, the coaches and the college team ethos. Whilst out there I committed to the University and something that will never leave me was watching the support I received on social media from friends, family and gymnasts from all around the world. It only added to the great feeling of starting a new chapter in my life knowing that there were lots of people behind my decision.
With the efforts of myself, my mum, Justin Spring, the assistant coach at Illinois Daniel Ribeiro and the relentless work of the school’s admissions team, we wrapped up everything in just under ten weeks. I flew out in January to begin my new life as a student-athlete at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with just a weekend to settle in. At the time, I hadn’t competed in over eight months but within two weeks of arriving I was representing the Fighting Illini as a Freshman. Being out of competition in the UK for such a long time, I was losing touch with the feeling I get when I put my arm up to a panel of judges. I forgot what it felt like to tighten the straps of my guards and chalk up beside the high bar; I had forgotten the moments before a floor routine where I would stand in a small pile of chalk and wait for the judges to finish the previous set and present to me. It was a feeling I deeply missed, but was to be reacquainted with as soon as I was fit for line up.
I progressed throughout my season travelling all over the US for meets; Oklahoma, Nebraska, Pennsylvania are but a few destinations where I represented the Fighting Illini alongside my teammates. In Iowa, at the B1G 10 Championships, I became the B1G 10 Champion on the High Bar, the first Illini Freshman to earn the title since 1986, after David Zeddies over three decades ago. Our NCAA Finals were held at home in the State Farm Center in Champaign, where I achieved All-American on the High Bar – an immense honour indeed! All in all, it was an amazing season and I am very grateful to be back competing in the sport I love and in a new and exciting environment. This gives me the opportunity to say thank you to my personal coach Dan, who has been so supportive and committed to me in the little time I have been here. To deeply understand a gymnast’s character and emotional needs is imperative to the athlete’s success, something that Dan, along with his other qualities, does very well. I cannot speak more highly of him and am very grateful he is a friend as well as my coach.
Alongside my gymnastics, I must remember I am a student-athlete at the University, which also involve some studies! In my first semester alongside my time competing, I achieved an overall 3.9 GPA and hope to maintain this standard and more throughout my years as a student here at the U of I…
As for the next semester, I will be continuing my studies in Chemistry and Kinesiology, but I am also hoping to return to the UK this August to compete in the British Team Championships and the London Open with the hope of qualifying for the World Championships later this year in Stuggartt, Germany.
Becoming a Fighting Illini, in all aspects, has helped me to completely reconnect with the sport I started when I was four years old, at Notts School of Gymnastics. I am thoroughly enjoying studying again and have embraced the responsibilities of being a student at a top class university. I’m in a truly great place where I will be able to reach my full potential in the sport and hopefully become one of the best gymnasts of my time.
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