Black Excellence in Gymnastics: Annia Hatch

Annia Hatch began her gymnastics career competing for Cuba in the mid-1990s. She won a bronze medal in the World Championships in 1996, making her the first Cuban gymnast to ever win a World medal and qualifying her for the Olympics. Unfortunately, Cuba lacked the funding to send her and so she was forced to sit the Games out. In 1997 she moved to the US, and everyone assumed her competitive career had ended.

However, this was not the case. Upon gaining US citizenship in 2001, she began training again with the goal of making the US National Team. Her efforts were successful, resulting in a fourth place finish and vault title at the 2002 National Championships, and she was considered a shoo-in for a vault medal at the upcoming World Championships in Debrecen.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. International sporting rules state that when athletes changes their citizenship, they must be granted a release by their former country if they wish to immediately begin competing for the new one. Cuba would not grant Annia’s release, and so she was forced to wait until it automatically went into effect in 2003. Then, an injury sidelined her for that year’s Worlds!

There is a happy ending to her story, though. Once she had recovered in 2004, she made the Olympic team and did herself justice at the Games, participating in the team’s silver win and earning a silver medal all her own on the vault.