DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Student Spotlight > Meet Nicole Sladkov: Olympic athlete springing into fall quarter
By Carolyn Brinckwirth and Christian Saulog /
September 28, 2021 /
Posted in: STUDENT SPOTLIGHT /
Nicole Sladkov, a junior at DePaul majoring in business administration, has proven hard work and dedication can make those Olympic dreams come true. After years of focused effort, she competed at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
It was Sladkov's never-give-up attitude that earned her a spot on the 2020 US Team for rhythmic gymnastics.
“I've wanted to compete in the Olympics as a rhythmic gymnast since I was a little girl," shes say. “When I have a goal, I will do anything in my power to reach it."
Growing up in Vernon Hills, Ill., her mother was her first gymnastics coach. Over the years, she has represented the United States in numerous international competitions.
Not only do rhythmic gymnasts have to possess strength, skill and flexibility, they also must compete with elegance and grace.
“We make our movements look effortless, but the team has put in so much work to achieve that look," Sladkov explains. “Even growing up, I would spend four to five hours in the gym each day with my team working on routines."
A form of gymnastics where female athletes perform expressive and acrobatic moves with the aid of a handheld apparatus which can be a hoop, ball, pair of clubs or a ribbon, rhythmic gymnasts can compete individually or in a group event. Competing in a group of women in a highly coordinated and stylistic event presents its fair share of challenges, but, Sladkov explains, working with a team actually improved her ability to compete.
“The are many exchanges and collaborations between everyone," Sladkov says. “There is an emphasis on synchronization during the two-and-a-half-minute routine. The coordination is a lot harder than it looks, because every little movement we make has to be in sync."
While some of her teammates retired during the pandemic, Sladkov stuck it out through virtual trainings and meetings after the Olympics were delayed. The athletes continued to motivate each other and, as a result, finally made it to the Olympics this year.
“Once our final routine was over, I shed a few tears right there on the carpet knowing I'm leaving this sport with no regrets," she says. “I'm so grateful for everything it has given me."
Sladkov happily retired after finally achieving her childhood dream, and looks forward to immersing herself in her education at DePaul.
“There has never been a time in my life when I was only doing school. I always was practicing or competing on top of taking classes. Saying I'm excited to start classes is an understatement," she says. “I chose DePaul because I've heard great things about the business school. I'm looking forward to my major classes, in particular."
Sladkov intends to apply her experience in rhythmic gymnastics to her course work in college.
“The sport has taught me how to endure extremely difficult mental situations," she notes. “I know how to set goals and achieve them by setting deadlines and putting in the extra time for studying. I also know to always reach out for help." With all she's gained from her gymnastics, her teammates and her tenacity, it's easy to see why Sladkov has a spring in her step as she attends classes at DePaul this fall. “I think college is what you make of it, and I can easily say I see myself thriving at DePaul," she says.
Christian Saulog is a student marketing communications assistant in the Division of Student Affairs. Carolyn Brinckwirth is a former student marketing communications assistant for the division.