World Champion gymnast Alexandra Nicholson honored

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 46            November 28, 2002

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World Champion gymnast Alexandra Nicholson - then and now

Local resident Alexandra Nicholson has just returned from Hungary after attending the 36th World Gymnastics Championship. Ms. Nicholson, a former champion US gymnast, was invited as a VIP guest of and mentor to the current US gymnastics team, receiving an all-expense paid trip and the full "athlete treatment" for her participation. This year's competition was held near the town of Debrecen, where the sport of gymnastics was born 150 years ago. A member of Belize's Maruba Resort & Jungle Spa described as "a true spa destination" in Hungary, "well known for their curative healing waters; good for arthritis and gastro problems."

    Nicholson, received the invitation to Hungary following her recent induction into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame on August 10, 2002 at the Cleveland Convention Center in Cleveland, Ohio. A two-time world champion in trampoline (1972, 1974), she was honored along with eight other inductees associated with the world of gymnastics. Members of the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame Class of 2002 include: George Beckstead, Dickie Browning, Nard Cazzell (posthumously), Bill Copp, Trent Dimas, Jair Lynch, Betty Okino and Kerri Strug. At the ceremony, President Bob Colarossi of USA Gymnastics commented, "All of these individuals nominated by the Hall of Fame committee have had a tremendous impact on gymnastics in the United States."

    In 2001, Nicholson was honored with the title of "Acrobatic Legend" from the World Acrobatic Society. As she was inducted into the World Acrobatic Hall of Fame, Alexandra Nicholson was described as the greatest woman trampolinist in the history of the sport. In her eight years of competition, she was undefeated in over 200 national and international competitions.

    Born in Zurich, Switzerland to racially mixed parents, (her father Merickston is from Trinidad and Tobago and her mother Anna is from Knittlefeld, Austria) Alexandra wittily describes herself as "Swiss chocolate." After immigrating to the United States, the family settled in Rockford, Illinois in 1965, where her father became the town's first minority physician establishing a medical practice in Oncology and Internal Medicine. The only girl "of color," at her school, Alexandra did not have many friends and therefore focused her attention on extracurricular activities - tumbling and trampoline. Realizing her potential, Coach Bob Bollinger eventually began to train Alexandra for world competition.

    Being "the best" demanded rigorous training schedules and left little time for a social life. Little did Alexandra know that, in years to come, this lifestyle would lead to newfound respect from her peers and community, not only for her own achievements but for other athletes around the world. Alexandra's training began at 4:00 a.m., followed by school and then a few hours of work in her father's office before she returned to more practice from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. The remaining years of her youth were spent in competition, where Alexandra transcended racial barriers to the point of being "allowed to compete" in apartheid-ridden South Africa. Setting the standards for present day levels of difficulty in acrobatic moves, Nicholson was the first to successfully complete the complex "triffis," a triple forward somersault with a half-twist. After winning her second back-to-back World Championship, the only person, to date, to have done so, Alexandra retired from the sport. She remains the last US trampolinist to have won a gold medal in international competition.

    Nicholson's trampoline fame led her to guest performances at Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden, on the Mike Douglas Show, with the Harlem Globetrotters, at London's Buckingham Palace for Queen Elizabeth, in the movie "Billy Jack," and as the featured half-time entertainment at a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game. Upon the completion of her trampoline career, Nicholson attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where she competed on both the gymnastic and track teams.

    A few years later, Alexandra followed her father to Belize, where she and her sister became involved in the "hands-on" construction of Maruba Jungle Resort. Located in the heart of Belize's rainforest, Alexandra was exposed to many of the natural ingredients and remedies learned by the indigenous Maya people. Using this knowledge to create her own line of cosmetic products, Alexandra developed Mayan Secrets, and promotes the country by manufacturing skin and beauty products made from all-natural ingredients found in the Belizean rainforests.

    In addition to being a World Champion, Alexandra Nicholson is the proud mother of one son Laurenzco and a daughter, Magdalena.
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