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Former UI Gymnast Houry Gebeshian to Compete for Armenia in World Championship

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IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Former University of Iowa women's gymnast Houry Gebeshian has advanced her gymnastics career to a level aspiring gymnasts dream of. She'll take the next step Oct. 7 at the 2011 World Gymnastics Championship in Japan.

Gebeshian began competing at the age of seven. She was a state champion and national competitor as a prep before becoming a three-time All-Big Ten selection, both academically and athletically, for the Hawkeyes.

Although her eligibility is has expired, Gebeshian isn't putting an end to her career. The Newton, Mass., native will represent Armenia at the 2011 World Gymnastics Championship.

Gebeshian will not only be representing an entire country, the birthplace of her grandparents, she will be competing for Armenia by herself -- a one person team.

She could win every event and still not accumulate enough points to bring back a championship for the country. That's not her objective... it's much larger.

Armenia possesses a wealth of talented female athletes but lacks the funding needed to recruit, train and showcase such talent. Personal success will remain high on Gebeshian's priority list -- it always has been -- but she understands her role for the country, gymnastics and women's athletics in general.

"My job for Armenia is not only to compete, but to show female athletes in Armenia that it is possible to compete on an elite, international level," said Gebeshian. "The talent is there. I want to encourage them to pursue their goals and hopefully inspire them to advance to that next level, similar to what I'm doing."

Gebeshian's family has connections with a liaison to the Armenian Olympic Committee. After a successful Big Ten season and an invitation to compete as an individual in the all-around competition at the 2011 NCAA Championships, Gebeshian clearly displayed the talent to compete at a higher level. The invitation was extended, with a mutual understanding of the broader objective, and Gebeshian quickly accepted.

"I knew that I wanted to continue to compete so this was an easy decision for me," said Gebeshian. "I was born and raised in the United States, but my family is from Armenia. This will be a great honor."

With eyes set on such a large stage, most would put all tasks aside in preparation. It's just the opposite for Gebeshian. She juggles a full class schedule as an integrated physiology major, works for the UI athletics department and still manages to find time for several hours of training seven days a week.

"I seem to have no free time, but I've learned that the work is necessary to accomplish the goals I want to achieve," said Gebeshian. "Such a busy schedule and focus is necessary, but when those goals are met it's all worth it."

To say she has a lot on her plate is a gross understatement, but Gebeshian has shown she is more than capable. In October, all of the work will be put aside for several days in Tokyo as she strives for personal perfection and attempts to advance women's athletics for an entire country solely by herself.

"I honestly don't know what to expect once I get there, but the opportunity is too good to turn down," said Gebeshian. "If I can advance the sport of gymnastics and women's athletics in a country all while competing, the work I've put in will be worth it."

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