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Read about former elite gymnast, now captain of the Stuyvesant’s varsity gymnastics team, Daria Minhas!

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Name: Daria Minhas

Grade: Senior

Height: 5’ 4”

Hair Color: Brown

Eye Color: Brown

Date of Birth: August 8, 2005

When and how did you start doing gymnastics? How long have you been on the Panthers, Stuyvesant’s girls’ varsity gymnastics team?

I have been doing gymnastics for 15 years. I started when I was about two or three years old doing Mommy and Me classes. Then, I started competing on an actual team when I was seven, which slowly progressed to a Junior Olympic level. But, I stopped doing gymnastics my freshman year, and after transferring to Stuyvesant my sophomore year, I joined the Panthers. But, since junior year was my first year coming into school in person, I’ve only been on the team for two years. I actually left Staten Island Tech because they didn’t have a gymnastics team, and I wanted to continue in high school.

What events do you specialize in/are your favorite? What skills/strengths are involved?

I’m an all-rounder, meaning I do everything. But, I specialize in vault. I actually think I should be City Champion in vault right now. It’s definitely a big power event. You’re just sprinting, going as hard as you can. You also need to think about multiple things at the same time and remember all the parts to complete a skill, since the judges will take off execution points for the smallest things. For example, my highest vault score this season was an 8.35, which [included] a 0.15 deduction for only a tiny step on my landing. This year, I also got really good at bars, and I am first or second in the rankings. For bars it is all about strength and learning how to keep a tempo [rather] than straight power.

What is your most memorable/proud moment with the team?

Definitely making the state team last year. That was a really big moment for me. I was out for the entire season, and I only competed in the last three meets due to issues with the coach, but I still managed to clear the qualification standards in three meets, whereas other girls got 10 to do so. I was really proud of myself for clearing those qualifications in such a short period of time and then going on to compete at state championships.

How has being a captain changed your outlook on gymnastics? What lessons have you learned from this position that you can apply to life?

I was the captain of my Junior Olympic team back when I was in middle school. It was definitely a very different experience from now. I didn’t have as much freedom, but right now, in the PSAL, the captains and the upperclassmen run the sports teams. It’s really nice to finally have more control and create opportunities for other people where I didn’t have any. I’ve found such a good community with the Panthers, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I also have learned a lot about spotting others and…how to translate visual cues into vocal feedback. As much as I can explain to someone what they are doing, having to tell them what they actually have to do to fix it [are] two very different things. I’m actually a gymnastics coach outside of school, so that comes in really handy.

Do you have any plans to continue doing gymnastics in the future or in college?

No. I think it’s time for me to stop. I’ve been battling a serious back injury since my freshman year. It was threatening pretty much my entire life, so once I hurt myself, any hopes I had for college or Olympic gymnastics went out the window. I was able to come back and compete in high school and it was fun, but it’s time to move on and pursue other sports. I will keep coaching if I can, but I’m content without competing.

Do you have any pre-meet superstitions or rituals?

I always visualize everything. If you see me before I compete, [I’ll] most likely have my face in the wall, just imagining myself hitting everything in my routine perfectly. Also, this is not really a pre-meet superstition, but I carry a little llama charm around with me. During our floor routines, all of our teammates try to dance each other’s floor routine, so we all know little parts of each other’s routine, which kind of represents the characteristics of the person who is competing.

What are the best and worst parts of gymnastics?

I love the adrenaline rush. The feeling you get when you do something perfectly, sticking to something or just getting a skill for the first time. It’s an unmatched feeling that I just can’t describe. The worst part would probably be the fact that the sport is so mental. It’s hard physically and whatnot, but trying the same thing over and over again for months on end with no real success is just so mentally draining.

What does a typical gymnastics practice look like?

First, we set up, which means putting everything out. All of our equipment is extremely heavy, so it’s literally part of the workout. We do a 30-minute long warmup and stretch, give or take. You have to be very thorough. And then its dynamic stretches are based on what kind of event you are going to do. So, if we set up the beam, I [would] have us all do some beam techniques together, whether it’s just walking across…the beam on our tippy toes or doing a jump. And then for [the] floor, [we do the] same kind of stuff: we always start with floor basics, vault basics, [and] so on and so forth. After that, we hit whatever we want on the apparatus. We try to stick straight by the books. We have regulation requirements that we have to make, so a lot of our time is spent trying to build routines that meet those requirements and then also perfecting them, so not only do we get a high difficulty score but also a high execution score. Once we are done with that, we [would have] some calisthenics conditioning—just bodyweight, no weightlifting. And then we pack up [and] put everything away, which takes another 30 minutes.

Are there any short-term goals you’d like to accomplish in the next month going into the last few competitions of the season?

I have the state team pretty much on lockdown, so I am most likely competing at the state championship. It’s not official yet, but they take the top 15 gymnasts in New York City and right now I’m in the top four. It would also be really cool to get captain of the state team, and we have the Individuals meet next week, so I want to do well there, too.

How did losing a year of gymnastics due to COVID-19 lockdowns affect you?

I actually remember the day when I realized how much COVID was going to affect my gymnastics career. I was walking home in Bay Ridge after I got off the bus from Staten Island, and I got an email from USA Gymnastics, the program I was enrolled in, saying that our state championship was canceled and so was the rest of the season. They were shutting down everything. My world literally shattered. My entire life was gymnastics. But during that time was when I had first injured my back, tearing a ligament and fracturing a vertebra, and if the pandemic hadn’t hit, I would have trained through that. I was going to keep going because that’s what gymnastics does to you. It puts you in a mindset that you can not stop at all. So the pandemic actually saved my life.

Funniest Teammate: Anisa Foreman, Elizabeth Paperno, Coach Choubs

Favorite Professional Gymnast: Sunisa Lee, Shawn Johnson, Oksana Chusovitina

Competing on Full or Light Stomach: Light stomach

Favorite Sports Drink: Lemon-lime Gatorade

Favorite Post-Meet Snack: Mushroom and kale

Gymnastic Pet Peeve: Chalk everywhere.

Favorite Hobby: Skating, Boxing

If You Could Play Another Sport: Football

Motto to Live By: I am more capable than I know.

Fun Fact: I can do a backflip on a scooter.