I would like to start with my experience in sports, particularly in gymnastics, because this has always been my greatest passion in life. Being involved in this sport established the foundation of many other interests, such as coaching gymnastics, teaching physical education and promoting physical activity in schools, as well as studying and researching areas which can maximise sports performance and improve general health and well-being through exercise and nutrition.
I have never been an elite athlete, yet I consider my achievements to be quite significant based on the following circumstances. Diagnosed with Perthes disease at a young age (a condition where the top of the thigh bone in the hip joint softens and stops functioning), I had been told by physicians not to practise any physical activities, and was even prevented from participating in physical education classes. It is said that when there is nothing to lose, you can only win. You are already naked and there is no reason not to follow your heart: from disability at a young age to taking part at the national level of the professional sport. So, Never Give Up! And I didn't!
I started training in artistic gymnastics at the end of 2002 and the skills I acquired, as well as the body transformation I experienced, are all priceless to me. Although I was already 15 and some people tried to denigrate my desire to progress, step-by-step, gymnastics became a major part of my life. My first official competition as a gymnast was in 2007, competing for 'Levski Sofia' Gymnastics Club. My best individual result is 4th place in the National Mens Rings Final in the Bulgarian Gymnastics Championships 2012, competing for my university team 'A-Gym NSA' G.C. I am also a three-time London rings champion, multiple veteran champion on different apparatuses, and I had the opportunity to compete together with some of my favourite elite gymnasts, such as Jordan Jovchev, Yuri van Gelder and Courtney Tulloch. Well, I am actually very proud of these achievements, considering the fact that the physicians once said that I would not even be able to do sports because of my hip problem, and national coaches said that there was no point in even starting to do gymnastics as it was already too late. I understand that not everyone can achieve a gold medal, but actually, everyone can be a winner! Yes, everyone, and my message to you is: Don't Give Up on your dream!
One of my biggest and lifetime goals was to attain the highest possible level of degree worldwide, the PhD degree. On 30th of May 2018, at the age of 30, I defended my dissertation and I was admited to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. At that very moment, one dream came true. But let me start a few years earlier... I started demonstrating a genuine interest in science and scientific work some years ago during my four-year course for a Bachelor's Degree at the National Sports Academy, 'Vassil Levski' - Sofia.
My first paper, entitled: 'The Importance of Selection in Artistic Gymnastics', enjoyed great success and was judged to be the best out of all of the submissions of my fellow students. Moreover, lecturers from the Gymnastics Department agreed that, in the following years, my work should be presented to all other first-year students as a brilliant examplar.
Amongst my favourite subjects at university were: Functional Anatomy, Biochemistry, Biomechanics and the Analysis of Sports Techniques, Sports Medicine, Physiology, Physiotherapy, Psychology, and the Theory and Methods of Sports Training. My growing motivation and interests were stimulated by warm comments and friendly encouragement from teachers and lecturers in different departments at the Sports Academy. Some lecturers highlighted my diligence, which can be witnessed in my very highly praised notebooks with colourful diagrams and illustrations.
My first significant achievement was related to my coursework at the Gymnastics Department of the NSA. After being supported and guided by my supervisor, Associate Professor Ilia Kiuchukov, Ph.D., I gave an excellent presentation of my coursework and was handsomely rewarded with the following statement, made by Prof. Nikola Hadjiev, D.Sc.:
This is a wonderful example of coursework, very well illustrated, and it has been presented in a magical way. We’ve known this student (Stefan Kolimechkov) for 4 years from our lectures, and I suggest that we should award an excellent mark of the highest category. Congratulations! It has been a real pleasure for us.'
These were the words which I will never forget!
Prof. Nikola Hadjiev, Doctor of Pedagogical Sciences
1976-1992 - member of Executive Committee of the FIG; and first Vice-President - 1980-1984
1979-1987 - rector of the NSA and the President of the Bulgarian Gymnastics Federation 1970-1990.
Director of the Gymnastics Department at NSA 'Vassil Levski' - Sofia.
I successfully defended my Bachelor's thesis, entitled 'Comparative Kinematic Analysis of the Dismounts - Double salto backward stretched and Double salto backward stretched with 360° turn on Still Rings' in 2011, and thus I was awarded a Diploma, my Bachelor's Degree.
During my time of study at the National Sports Academy, I attended department conferences, scientific workshops and conferences with the participation of delegates from around the world, all of which were of great interest to me.
In 2012, I directed my interests towards questions of nutritional diet and physical fitness, which are crucial factors affecting human health. The subjects of my scientific work were children of pre-school and primary school age. The same year, I started doing scientific research, guided by my advisor, Dr Luybomir Petrov, Ph.D. (Department of Biochemistry and Physiology at the NSA). My submitted Master's thesis, entitled 'Assessment of the Daily Diet of Pre-school and Young School Children who are doing Artistic Gymnastics', enjoyed great success and was awarded the highest possible mark. After what was judged to be an excellent thesis defence in front of the 'Physical Education' Department at the 'National Sports Academy', scoring a GPA over the entire course of Excellent 5.94, and after collecting 62 credits (1410 hours & thesis defence), at the end of 2012 I officially obtained my Master’s degree in Physical Education from the National Sports Academy, ‘Vassil Levski’, Sofia, Bulgaria (EU). The university has a global reputation for physical education and sports science studies, and the training structures and programmes for obtaining a degree in physical education and teacher qualifications are entirely in compliance with the European standards and requirements.
In 2013 I moved to London, (United Kingdom), and started working as a gymnastics coach. My first publication, entitled 'Assessment of the Physical Development of Pre-school and Primary school Children practising Artistic Gymnastics', appeared in the Bulgarian journal 'Sport & Science' in the same year.
In 2014, I started improving the methodology from my previous studies, as well as building the foundation of my proposed project for a Doctoral Dissertation. The next year I sent my project to the National Sports Academy in Sofia, and in July 2015 I was officially enrolled for a three-year higher education course, leading to a PhD degree. I started conducting my PhD research in London, and my supervisor and I published another article which appeared in the 'African Journal for Physical Activity and Health Sciences', in 2016.
2017 was a very productive year indeed. At the beginning of it, I was awarded Registered Scientist status (RSci) by the Science Council in the UK and its professional body BASES. After this I published my first article in the European Journal of Physical Education and Sport Science as a lead and only author, and I was invited to join the Editorial Board of this international peer-reviewed journal. In June, I was officially recognised as a Certified Exercise Practitioner by the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). In September, I was accepted as a FIEP New Leader and went to Luxembourg to represent our scientific team at the 12th FIEP European Congress, where I gave a poster presentation on our latest study: 'BeepShuttle: Software for assessing the cardiorespiratory fitness of children and adolescents'. In November, I participated at the UK's top event in sport and exercise sciences, which was the BASES Conference 2017 in Nottingham, where I presented a study on handgrip strength in children in the poster sessions. In December, I gave a presentation on physical activity assessment in the parallel sessions of the First International Congress of Applied Sports Sciences in Sofia, which marked 75 years since the establishment of the National Sports Academy. This was an astonishing moment for me, because I started as a Bachelor student at this very same university, and during the following few years I also attended its international conferences. I was always inspired by the many scientists whose talks I had the pleasure and privilege to listen to, and then in 2017, I had the honour of being chosen as a delegate and, in this capacity, presented our own study.
2018 was probably the most successful year in my life. On 30 May 2018, at the age of 30, I was officially admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). It was an honor to present my Doctoral Dissertation in front of an audience, including the Scientific Jury for this Official PhD Defence, lecturers and researchers from 3 Departments of the National Sports Academy (Biochemistry and Physiology, Gymnastics, and Physical Education), as well as parents of the gymnasts I coached and their children. Throughout the year I published 3 articles in international peer-reviewed journals as a lead or co-author. In July 2018 I was appointed the Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of Physical Education and Sport Science (ISSN 2501 - 1235). In September 2018, I presented the combined sets of European physical fitness percentile scores for children and adolescents for the Alpha-fit test battery at the 13th FIEP European Congress in Istanbul, Turkey. In November 2018, І рrеѕеntеd preliminary findings from our study on physical fitness of young artistic gymnasts from Bulgaria at the parallel sessions of the UK's top event in sport and exercise sciences, BASES Conference 2018 in Harrogate.
2019 was very significant as well. In April, I was admitted as a member of the Royal Society of Biology, and I moved my Registered Scientist status (RSci) with them as a professional body of the Science Council in the UK. Throughout the year, I published 5 articles in international peer-reviewed journals and 2 articles in conference proceedings as lead or co-author. In July 2019, I participated at the biggest and most prestigious event in sports science in Europe, the ECSS Congress. At this Congress I presented findings from our study on body composition and nutrient intake of elite rhythmic gymnasts from Bulgaria. This has been my top event in which I had a chance to present research to date.
2020 is rolling on. In February 2020, I published my first article as a co-author in British Impact Factor journal. On the whole, I have published 2 articles in international peer-reviewed journals for 2020 so far. I have also been accepted to speak at the parallel sessions of the ECSS Congress in Spain later this year, which is the biggest conference in sports science in Europe.
As a qualified artistic gymnastics coach, I like teaching motivated children who want to develop their physical state through gymnastic exercises. My young gymnasts have won many medals, awards and diplomas in national gymnastics competitions and tournaments in Bulgaria and the United Kingdom. Moreover, my students and I have participated in different events in order to popularise the sport of gymnastics. All of these significant moments can be seen on our Gymnastics Coaching Page. As an essential component of my work prior to graduation from a university for higher education in 2011, my diploma paper on 'Comparative Kinematic Analysis of Two Dismounts on Rings' was evaluated as one of the best papers at the Bulgarian Sports Academy.
I have more than 10 years of experience as a gymnastics coach, teaching children from 4 to 15 years of age. I possess a Bachelor's Degree Diploma in coaching artistic gymnastics at all levels and for both genders, and I was awarded the Level 2 coaching qualification from British Gymnastics in 2013. In 2018, I completed my Level 3 coaching qualification with British Gymnastics. I work as a gymnastics coach in London, providing personal training to many children, as well as group lessons at the Elite Gymnastics Academy.
Physical Education Teaching
During my professional pedagogical practice, which was part of my studies for a Bachelor's degree at university, I was teaching students between the ages of 14 and 18. Over a period of one month (25 Apr - 20 May 2011) I conducted physical education classes at the 91st German Language School, 'Professor Konstantin Galabov', in the city of Sofia.
In the autumn of 2011 I continued my studies to the next level of academic degree, and at the end of 2012 I officially became a Master of Physical Education. In 2014 I obtained Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) from the Department of Education in the United Kingdom, and I volunteered as a PE Assistant at St Edmund's Primary School in London from January 2015 until July 2018.