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Stella Umeh

Stella's Competitive Results
1987 Junior Pacific Alliance Gymnastics Championships: 4th T, 9th AA
1989 Junior Pacific Alliance Gymnastics Championships: 1st AA
1989 American Cup: 5th AA
1989 DTB Cup: 16th AA
1989 Moscow News: 8th AA, 8th V, 4th FX
1990 Commonwealth Games
1990 Chunichi Cup: 6th AA (tie)
1990 Moscow News: 5th AA
1991 Elite Canada: 1st AA
1991 WIMGYM Invit'l: 2nd T, 1st AA
1991 American Cup: 8th AA
1991 World Championships: 17th AA
1992 Canadian National Championships: 1st V
1992 American Cup: 7th AA
1992 World Championships: 8th V, 5th BB
1992 Olympics: 10th T, 16th AA
1993 Canadian Nationals: 1st AA, 1st V
1993 World Championships: 15th AA, 8th FX
1993 Soapberry World Gymnastics Challenge: 4th AA, 3rd V (tie), 1st UB, 5th BB, 5th FX
1994 Commonwealth Games: 2nd T, 1st AA, 1st V, 2nd UB, 5th BB, 4th FX

NCAA Results

1995 NCAA Championships - 4th TM, 1st FX
1996 NCAA Championships - 2nd TM
1997 NCAA Championships - 1st TM
1998 NCAA Championships - 5th TM, 1st FX

Stella Umeh explained to International Gymnast (April 1993 issue) that she didn't begin gymnastics like most kids. One day, her mother Patsy got lost while driving, so she stopped to ask directions. With 6-year-old Stella in town, Patsy entered Mississauga Gymnastics Club to find her bearings. Stella started gymnastics there one week later.

Despite the unassuming beginnings, Stella Umeh progressed to become one of Canada's most decorated and most unique gymnasts. Stella was mainly known for her power and dance. She frequently chose expressive African pieces for her floor exercises (her father is from Nigeria, Africa and her mother from Guyana, South America) and her older sister, Stacey Umeh-Lees (a TV commentator for Elite Canada 98 and now a coach in Brisbane, Australia), would often choreograph the routines. The result was always a very unique style of floor exercise!

Although she competed in a number of high level competitions prior to the 1990 Commonwealth Games, Stella considered these Games to be where she burst onto the gymnastics scene. Interestingly, Stella wasn't actually on the initial team. Immediately after returning from a family vacation following the disappointing trials, Stella got a call and was told to get on the next plane to New Zealand. Team member Monica Covacci had blown out her knee and the first alternate, Koyuki Oka, had injured herself too. Stella was next in line.

Over the next four year Stella performed brilliantly on the international scene, her World and Olympic results unparalled by other Canadian gymnasts. Stella capped her elite gymnastics career by winning the AA gold at the 1994 Commonwealth Games. The only veteran of the 1990 Commonwealth Games, it was important to Stella to end her career where it began.

In 1997, Gymnastics Canada Gymnastique saluted Stella Umeh at the Annual Awards Banquet. Recognition is given to athletes who make a significant contribution to gymnastics over a period of years. A gymnast who accumulates 30 or more points during their international competitive years qualifies for Gold recognition. Points are based on a number of factors including participation in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Pan American Games, World Championship Teams, and Canadian Championships. Stella Umeh received Gold level recognition.

In 1998, Stella ended her collegiate career in style. She was the top AA finisher at the 1998 Pac-10 Championships, also placing first on the balance beam and floor exercise. At the NCAA Championships, she shared the gold medal on floor exercise with Karin Lichey (Georgia), scoring a perfect 10.0 on the floor exercise.

Stella has long wanted to become an actress/stage performer and since graduating from UCLA has been actively pursuing this career. For several summers she appeared in Sea World's World Rhythm on Ice shows, in 1997 performing alongside US Olympian Betty Okino. Prior to joining Cirque du Soleil, in late 1999 she joined a performing troupe in Myrtle Beach. In mid-2000 she joined Cirque's Mystere in Las Vegas.

In mid-2002 Stella began training for Cirque's new show, Verakai. Prior to its opening she took a leave to provide CBC's colour commentary at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

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