When Annie Maria Bissoondial made her debut in our weekly Fan Choice competition last summer, she faced stiff competition. First, her record of 12,632 for "most rope skips in one hour" faced a Star Wars record and its legion of fanboys. She also found herself pitted against three other mass participation records, well-known throughout the competition for having large groups of participants and supporters.
Didn't matter. Annie won that week handily and then proceeded to make a Cinderella run all the way to the championship of our year-end Fan Choice vote. As a No. 6 seed in our 32-entry tournament, she defeated a pair of No. 3 seeds, a No. 2 seed, and a No. 1. But there's so much more to Annie's story, starting with the car accident in 2010 that forever changed her life and resulting in her non-profit charity work today.
We spoke with Annie about all these topics and more.
GWR: What's it like to know you’re the “people’s champ?”
Annie: It’s pretty amazing. The great part about all of this is getting the support from people that I don’t know, and it’s so special that they wanted my record to win. That’s the work itself. Me doing the record, no. But everyone voting for me is what makes it special.
You defeated some really big records along the way, some popular achievements but also a lot of mass participation records (e.g. largest swimwear parade on skis; largest mobile phone gaming party). When the competition started, did you think you had any chance of winning the whole thing?
No, but the only record that I wanted to compete against was the cyclist, for the fastest time around Australia. As an athlete, I kind of wanted to see him come up in the competition. The other one was the largest waterski pyramid. That's a lot of talent just to do that; I wanted them to do well. [Ed. note: both achievements were eliminated in earlier rounds]
Explain how you spread the word about your record and were able to campaign for votes.
Well, first, I was in a rollover car accident three years ago. I nearly lost my life. They amputated my thumb and almost did my index finger, but with plastic surgery they saved my index. I used to jump rope to work out, so when I lost my thumb and couldn’t even bend my finger or use my left hand – not being able to even pick up a piece of paper it was very difficult. I thought my life was worthless and I started feeling sorry for myself. But with a lot of therapy, I was finally able to bend it. And I used my jump rope as a tool to learn how to squeeze. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t recognize that person. I didn’t feel beautiful on the inside. Once I got the clearance to exercise again, I used the jump rope and that made me feel good.
And I’ve been with my company for 14 years and they all know me and they all know my story. They’ve seen me go through the depression part, so they know the story behind it and I’ve had a few articles written about it and how I turned my life around. That’s how the word got out. ...So did working at a local community center. I was also featured on the news when I broke my record. And I also just tried promoting to the public to get the vote as well. I’ve also traveled to Italy, and we have an office in Germany, and I was born in Guyana, so I knew a lot of people there. Trinidad, Jamaica: people in my family were giving a lot of support for me. I was just pushing it out every day to everybody, just vote vote vote!
So this record is not just me. “We” won. Everyone who helped me, they won. They did it for me.
Let’s talk about the record itself. More than 12,000 skips in one hour! Plus you broke your own record (11,527) from 2012. What’s the strategy for attempting this record?
My first 5 minutes are the hardest. But once I get into it, I can go on for more than an hour. I use a mirror to stay focused and also to get through it. It’s my quiet time, to reflect on my day, what’s going on in my life, how I can do things better. I still work out hard 3 days a week to keep to my numbers. The only way I’ll break my record now is if someone challenges me to break it! Numbers are important to me. If I just jump rope, it’s not going to get me anywhere to a level where I’ll feel good about myself.
I still jump 45 minutes to an hour today. It’s still my balance, physically and mentally. It’s my medicine.
What’s the most difficult thing about attempting a record like this that combines fitness, endurance, and concentration?
The hardest part is honestly for others to count it. To get everyone to witness your record, you’re asking time from them – a whole hour to sit and count. Organizing the attempt is just as hard as actually doing it!
We know you probably don’t want to give away any secrets to your success, but for anybody looking to attempt jump rope records like this, what tips would you offer?
You have to have 8 hours of good sleep and a big bowl of good pasta. Those are very important for me to be able to do an hour of jumping rope in the morning. I don’t take vitamins or protein or anything like that. A good dinner the night before, a lot of fish, a lot of sweet potatoes.
Before we let you go, tell us about your non-profit organization, “Jumping for Kids.”
After the first record, I wanted to give back and share with kids, especially because so many kids are overweight. The way I was feeling looking in the mirror (after the accident), kids I’m sure when they’re overweight and look in the mirror, they don’t feel good about themselves either.
So I did the second record to give back to the kids, to help them and say, "look what you can have with a jump rope and you can be active." And if you’re active and feel good about yourself, you can set your mind to do anything. I just wanted to give back and share with kids my experience, just the way I look and how I felt inside. There are too many things going on in this world for kids, and if I can just spend time with them, at least they’re jumping rope and I sit with them and speak with them. ...
The message is really, when something terrible happens to you, just turn it around and make it into something great. This is what I want to share with the world.
Our Fan Choice competition will return for 2014 with its weekly voting portion in the spring.