published Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Chattanooga twirling pro spins baton in international bid for gold

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    Jenny Hannah
    Photo by Staff File Photo.
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Bronze medal twirler Jenny Hannah is going for the gold.

Hannah, of Chattanooga, will represent the United States at the World Baton Twirling Championships, this week in Nottingham, England. It’s the sport’s equivalent to the Olympics, says Hannah a 22-time member of Team USA and a five-time World Bronze medalist.

“The World Championships is the biggest international event in the sport of baton twirling,” says Hannah, who lists her age as somewhere in her 30s. The competition, sponsored by the World Baton Twirling Federation, holds championship competitions every other year.

Q. How many U.S. twirlers compete in the championships?

A. For the World Championships, each competing country is allowed to have three senior women, three senior men, three junior women, three junior men, one senior pair, one junior pair and one team.

Q. How did you secure a place on the team?

A. I made Team USA for the World Baton Twirling Championships last March at the U.S. Trials, which were held near Indianapolis. I will be competing in both the senior women and in the team events this year. At the U.S. Trials, four senior women team members are chosen. Our final round for placement on the team was at the National Championships on July 7 in Stockton, Calif. I won the bronze medal.

Q. Describe the competition.

A. The individual competition is made up of two components: short program and freestyle. The short program contains eight compulsory skills which are judged on technique and precision by the judges. The freestyle is similar to the free skate in figure skating. Each athlete performs a program to music of his or her choice and is judged on technical merit and artistic expression. The team event involves eight twirlers performing a program together. A team performance includes many exchanges, twirling skills and group intricacies while presenting an artistic and thematic program to the audience.

Q. How often do you practice before this major competition?

A. This time of the season I practice five to six days a week. As a member of the team competing for the USA, we have been having many long team practices together at out-of-town locations. Members of the team are also from Florida, Indiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland. During team practices, we have been spending seven to eight hours a day in the gym. Individually, at home, I practice three to five hours a day.

Q. Do you teach twirling?

A. I am the associate director and a coach with United Twirling in Chattanooga. I teach students of all ages (pre-school to adult). I teach group classes as well as private lessons. I am the coach of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga twirling line, which performs at all home football games with the UTC Marching Mocs, and I am a fitness instructor for the UTC Recreation department, where I teach a beginning ballet class for students.

Q. What is your educational background?

A. I have a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s in health and physical education from UTC. I graduated from the Chattanooga State Physical Therapist Assistant Program in May. I will be taking the PTA board exam in October and hope to work in an outpatient physical therapy clinic.

Q. Why do like twirling?

A. I love the sport of baton twirling because it is an artistic sport which combines technical twirling skill with dance and artistic expression. Twirling is extremely detail oriented. An athlete can always improve and learn new things.

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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