Guilianna Pino might make her biggest dream come true later this month, a dream she’s been working toward for more than 10 years: to become the first Ecuadorean to participate in an international gymnastics competition.
“It’s awesome to know that someone has been able to open the doors, despite the lack of resources,” said Pino, who lives in Coral Gables. “And that inspires young girls who are over there in Ecuador; it lets them know that it can be done.”
Her dream to make a mark in her country’s sports history doesn’t stop there. Pino also yearns to plant her tricolored yellow, blue and red flag on Brazilian soil in Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Games in 2016, and write another chapter in Ecuador’s gymnastics history.
Pino started practicing gymnastics at the age of 7.
“When I was 13 years old, I told myself, ‘I want to do this’,” Pino said about the moment when she decided to commit herself to a training regimen, which would give her the opportunity to reach an elite level within the sport.
Since then, she’s won several state-wide and regional competitions. In 2012, she made it to the Ecuadorean National Team and started representing her homeland in international competitions. This year, she competed in championships in Croatia and Portugal, and was just half a point away from qualifying for finals.
Reaching the highest peaks in the world of competitive gymnastics hasn’t been easy for the young athlete. Aside from attending high school during the week, Pino also trains 32 hours every week under the supervision of Cuban coaches Fernando Veliz and Geovanis Santos at the International Gymnastics Training Center in Cutler Bay.
Veliz trained Cuba’s National gymnastics team for more than 27 years, before he defected during the 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, Mexico. He arrived in Miami from Mexico this May.
Both coaches think Pino has good possibilities of nabbing one of the 41 spots in the World Gymnastics Championships competition in Glasgow that will get her to the Olympics in Brazil.
“She’s a gymnast who has a lot of perspective, she’s very young, she’s a hardworking athlete. Despite all the commitment she has with her school, she really makes a huge effort,” Veliz said. “Little by little, we’ve been achieving different milestones to improve her techniques.”
The artistic gymnastics world competition will take place from Oct. 23- Nov. 1, and will host about 230 gymnasts from more than 90 countries.
Pino is currently experiencing one of the most intense training sessions before the European competition and is trying to improve her acrobatics and perfect various aspects of her routines in the four disciplines in which artistic gymnastics are judged: asymmetric bars, balance/equilibrium bar, floor and jump and landing.
Perhaps one of the most complicated aspects of her preparation is the mental part, since the margin for error is so minimal in routines such as balance bar, which measures less than four inches wide.
That’s why Pino works on a daily basis with sports psychoanalyst Jason Scott Hamilton, who has seen other athletes such as Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world in the 100 meter run.
Another important factor regarding her mental strength, says Pino, is the support of her family.
“During the time of the competition, she has to travel almost every weekend. Before that, it was taking her to the gym,” said Cynthia Azari, Giulianna’s mother. “What I have learned is to give her space and support her, even if in silence, to not give her any added pressure.”
Pino has her mind set on her short-term goals but also thinks about the future. She wants to continue contributing to sports in her country.
“I would like to have my own gym and have a space where I can take athletes and provide opportunities for girls who come from low-income families,” she said.
Sergio Candido: 305-376-3451, @sncandido