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Annia Hatch began gymnastics in her native Cuba at the age of four. She won her first Cuban National Championships at the age of ten; over the course of her career she would win the title a total of seven times.
Competing for Cuba, Annia Hatch made her debut at the World Gymnastics Championships in 1993. She placed tenth in the all-around. In 1995 she picked up three medals at the Pan Am Games, placing fourth in the all-around, second on the balance beam, and third on the vault and uneven bars. The following year, in 1996, she became the first Cuban gymnast ever to win a medal at the World Championships with a bronze on the vault.
Annia Hatch qualified as an individual for the 1996 Olympics, but a lack of funding prevented the Cuban Olympic Committee from sending her to the competition. She retired and, in 1997, moved to the United States. In 2001 she became an American citizen.
Annia resumed training at the elite level in 2001. By mid-2002, Annia turned heads in the U.S. when she won the U.S. Classic, a qualifier to the U.S. National Championships. Annia also placed first in the vault at the meet. Annia went on to place first after the first day of the U.S. National Championships, and fourth at the conclusion of the meet. Annia’s vaults were so spectacular (a very well executed double twisting tsukahara and a powerful double twisting yurchenko) that many experts believed Annia was likely to win vault at the upcoming World Championships in Debrecen, Hungary.
Although Annia was a U.S. citizen, Olympic rules stated that during the first year after obtaining citizenship in a new nation, one’s former country of citizenship had to give permission to release the gymnast in order for her to represent her new country in international competition. Cuban government refused to release Annia, prompting U.S. government officials and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter to specifically petition Cuba on Annia’s behalf. Because Cuba would not release her voluntarily, Annia had to wait until she was granted an international release in 2003 before she was permitted to represent the United States in international competition.
Annia was named to the 2003 World Championships team after a solid placement at U.S. Nationals. In podium training at Worlds, Annia looked to once again be the top contender for the gold medal on the vault, but a devastating knee injury—a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)—the day before the start of the competition left Annia on the sidelines.
The recovery time for ACL reconstruction is usually about twelve months. However, Annia was able to return to competitive gymnastics by the US Nationals and the Olympic Trials in the middle of 2004. She was named to the US squad for the 2004 Olympics. In Athens, Annia competed only on vault in the team competition, and contributed to the US team’s silver medal. Although her ACL was not completely rehabilitated, she still qualified to the vault event final, where she won a silver medal behind Monica Roșu from Romania. Despite competing for the USA she is the first Cuban female gymnast to win an Olympic medal in gymnastics.
After the Olympics, Annia retired from competition. She has since pursued fashion and music while coaching gymnastics. In January 2012, she moved to Ashburn, VA and in 2018 moved to Long Island, NY where she resides now. Her Annia Cares project organization was launched in 2016 to help and support athletes and families around the world.
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