February 27, 2003

Tumblers' All-Around Performer

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After a vicious fall on the uneven bars two weeks ago, the gymnastics team was unsure whether sophomore Larissa Calka would walk again, let alone compete for the remainder of the season. Calka, fortunately, suffered no serious injuries. Amazingly, she bounced right back into form and registered the highest overall score, 38.1, at last weekend’s meet against Penn and Ursinus.

When asked about her scary fall during a meet against Cortland, Ithaca, and Syracuse two weeks ago, Calka said, “I was going through my bar routine and everything was fine. Then, when I went to dismount, my grip slipped causing me only to get one and a half ways around on my double backflip.”

The description conveys the fear and anxiety onlookers felt for Calka’s well-being.

This near catastrophe did not stop Calka from competing in the next meet, however.

“I took it easy in practice before Penn and, despite coming off of a fall, I felt suprisingly comfortable.”

The comfort that Calka sensed translated into her best meet of the year. Not only did she win the all-around, Calka recorded her highest score ever, a 9.625, on the bars — the same event that almost proved disastrous a week earlier. Furthermore, Calka’s performance led the team to a score of 188.4, its best of the season.

For Calka, these ups and downs inherent to gymnastics have become a regular part of her life. She has been involved in the sport since the age of two.

“My parents noticed that I was always swinging and climbing on things, so they decided to enter me in a gymnastics class,” recalled Calka.

Soon after starting gymnastics, Calka decided to take it up seriously. She worked rigorously at the World Class Gymnastics Academy in Latham, N.Y. to hone her skills.

The hard work paid off when she was invited to compete at Nationals during her junior and senior year of high school.

“It was an honor to compete at Nationals, and I took a lot of good experience away from it,” said Calka.

Calka applied to Cornell early decision because she simply loved the campus. And, since matriculation, she has not looked back. Her success and involvement on campus is astounding.

Apart from her athletic prowess, her academic achievements are similarly impressive. Calka is a pre-med student with an outstanding academic record.

She finds gymnastics to be a positive force in maintaining good academic standing.

“It helps me structure my studies and stay focused. Practices and meets are a good outlet from the pressures of schoolwork,” said Calka.

Another outlet that Calka looks to is the Ukranian Dance Ensemble. She is an active member of the Ukranian Club at Cornell and enjoys staying in touch with her heritage.

Currently, however, gymnastics is the only thing pervading Calka’s mind.

This weekend the Red travels back to Penn for the Ivy League Championships — a meet it won last year. The team will then compete in the ECAC Champsionships, and, if it performs well there, Nationals after that.

When asked about the team’s prospects for the rest of the season Calka exclaimed, “At the beginning of the year I wasn’t very confident about the team. Now, as meets go on, I am becoming more and more confident in our ability. Every meet we are improving and people are healing their injuries. I am very optimistic about upcoming meets.”

Archived article by Mark Travers