Nov. 11, 2000
by Theresa Ripp
On a wet, windy day on Puget Sound, Lanna Apisukh stands out among University of Washington students tromping through the rain, her large smile beams radiance through the clouds. She is wearing shorts with oversized gray, wool gloves on her petite hands. This is typical wear, including the smile, for the Florida native and senior on the University of Washington's gymnastics team. Seattle's rain does not bother Lanna.
Growing up in Lake Mary, Fla., this small but strong gymnast used to want to do whatever her older brother Jade did.
"I always tagged along with him and started gymnastics when I was five," Apisukh says.
Apisukh remembers seeing Mary Lou Retton win the gold medal in the 1984 gymnastics and thought it was "really cool." She started from there and picked up the sport easily. Apisukh thinks of gymnastics as a sport with artistic expression.
"A person needs skills and stamina to compete. But our artistic expression comes out when we are on the beam or the floor. Our selling point of our score is how well we perform on the beam and the floor," Apisukh says.
Her mom used to drive her back and forth between Jacksonville, Fla., where they were living at the time, to Orlando on the weekends for practice, listening to the classical music of Bach and Mozart during the two-hour drive. Apisukh recalls they would stop at restaurants for healthy food and eat in the car and just talk. They did this for one year.
Apisukh remembers, "my mom taught me to be really strong and independent. She always told me to excel and succeed at everything I did, but she never pushed me to do gymnastics. I was the one who always wanted to keep going."
Her mom, Chitlada, moved to Hawaii from Thailand when she was an exchange student in college. There she met Lanna's dad, Vichit, also an exchange student from Thailand, whom she married and moved to Florida with. Lanna went to Thailand for the first time in 1995, to participate in the South East Asian (SEA) Games. She won a silver in the vault and a gold in three other individual events. Her visit in Thailand was her most memorable moment in gymnastics, as Lanna met her paternal grandparents for the first time, and was also invited to live and train in Thailand for three months with the Thai national gymnastics team.
Apisukh's achievements in gymnastics have taken her all over the world. She was a member of the United States National Team in 1992 when she was twelve. After competing in Paris, France, in the Popes Junior Competition, Apisukh had Olympic-qualifying scores, but was two years shy of being old enough to join her U.S. teammates at the Summer Games in Barcelona.
Seattle was a city Apisukh had always wanted to visit, so she jumped at the chance of becoming a member of the Huskies gymnastics team. She listens to Modest Mouse or Red Stars Theory -- rock groups from Seattle -- before most of her meets.
"Seattle is a city built on music," Apisukh says. "I love music! Seattle also has four seasons, something I never got in Florida."
Listening to music is Apisukh's way of relaxing before a meet. She considers her sophomore year at UW, in which she made it to nationals as an individual in the all-around competition, her most stellar year.
According to her, the best part about gymnastics is that it is, "good mentally and physically for you." She believes it has kept her organized and disciplined. The biggest thing Apisukh has learned is to appreciate her spare time.
"There is nothing like being able to do amazing things with my body," she says. "I love to compete and have fun with the crowd during my floor exercise."
Apisukh will graduate next year with a degree in English and art. She hopes to do something in the entertainment industry, such as being a casting producer.
"I don't want a desk job," she says. "I have to keep active. Art is a good way to express my emotions."
Watch for her to express her artistic style for the Huskies gymnastics team during the 2000-2001 season with her calm, relaxed, and focused demeanor on the floor. Watch for her smile glowing through the dark rain of winter.