Inducted: 2008 Inducted: Member-Gold Medal World Championships Team (2003)
It is difficult to imagine the heartache one might experience by having the government of a country tell you that you can’t compete at the highest level in the world when you know you are skilled enough to do so. Annia Hatch experienced this heartache and not only overcame this, and a serious injury, but she became one of the leading gymnasts in the world.
The Early Years: Annia Portuondo Hatch was born in Guantanamo, Cuba, became an American citizen and later competed for the U.S. at the 2004 Olympics. She began gymnastics in her native Cuba at the age of five and won the Cuban National championships at the age of ten; over the course of her career she would win the title a total of seven times. 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. Although Hatch 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 a gymnast in order for her to represent her new country in international competition. Fidel Castro refused to release Hatch, prompting U.S. government officials and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter to specifically petition Cuba on Hatch’s behalf. Unfortunately, Cuba would not release her. Hatch had to wait until she was granted an international release in 2003 before she was permitted to represent the United States in international competition. Hatch was able to return to competitive gymnastics in time for the US Nationals and the Olympic Trials in the middle of 2004. Olympic Games: Silver-Team & V, Athens, Greece, (2004). In Athens, she 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 her silver medal. World Championships: Bronze-V (1996) competing for Cuba, Hatch made her debut at the World Gymnastics Championships in 1993. She placed tenth in the all-around. Her Bronze medal was the first Cuban to ever win a medal at the World Championships. The result, however, was controversial, as many experts believed Annia’s performance merited the gold medal. Hatch was named to the 2003 World Championships team, but in podium training a devastating ACL knee injury the day before the start of the competition left Hatch on the sidelines. Pan American Games: Silver-BB; Bronze-V & UB, (1995). Annia also placed fourth in the all-around. Retirement/Comback: Annia Hatch retired and, in 1997, moved to the United States. With her new husband, Alan Hatch, she became a part owner and coach of the Stars Academy gym in West Haven, Connecticut. In 2001 she became an American citizen. Hatch resumed her training at the elite level in 2001 with her husband as her coach. By mid-2002, Hatch won the U.S. Classic, a qualifier to the U.S. National Championships. In doing so, she defeated Tasha Schwikert, the number one ranked U.S. gymnast, the reigning national champion and highest finisher at the 2001 World Championships. Hatch also placed first in the vault at the meet. Hatch went on to place first after the first day of the U.S. National Championships, and fourth at the conclusion of the meet. Hatch’s vaults were very spectacular (a well executed double twisting tsukahara and a powerful double twisting yurchenko) for the time and made her one of the best vaulters in the world. After the Olympics, Hatch again retired from competition. She has since pursued fashion and music while coaching gymnastics. Annia and her husband recently joined the staff at TAG USA Gymnastics in Weston, Florida.
Sources: Data retrieved from the public domain (Wikipedia) as were photos (Google). Data and photos retrieved by Jerry Wright assistant web manager. Editing by Dr. Larry Banner, 2003 Inductee and Assistant Web Manager for Jerry Wright.