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Kristina Baskett: Head over heels

Former NCAA student-athlete, now a Hollywood stunt performer, takes a tumble in a good way

You may not recognize her name, but chances are you’re familiar with her talents. With the foundation of a solid college education behind her, Kristina Baskett has managed to parlay her love for gymnastics into a thriving career as a Hollywood stunt performer.

Born and raised in Normandy Park, Washington near Seattle as the daughter of an airline pilot and a stay-at-home mom, Kristina got her first fateful taste of gymnastics at the tender age of 2 years old. She dabbled in other activities throughout her childhood, including swimming, diving, T-ball, soccer and dance; however, gymnastics emerged as Kristina’s sport of choice.

“I like the performance aspect of gymnastics, as well as the control you gain over your body to do these amazing things,” she says. “I love being able to flip and turn the world upside down. My body is completely comfortable with it.” 

During her younger years, Kristina harbored ambitions of working at a zoo, later transitioning into dreams of becoming a professional photographer. Luckily, she found a way to simultaneously explore several of her main interests and talents during her college years at the University of Utah. There, Kristina earned a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in mass communications and electronic journalism, while emerging as a formidable competitor within the school’s Division I gymnastics program, part of the PAC-12 Conference. Kristina was twice named a College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-American, and received the Dahl Award (a recognition that honors Utah’s most distinguished scholar athletes) not once, but three times.

“Utah gymnastics is such a special program,” she says. “The amount of support from the community, with 15,000 fans showing up to gymnastics meets, is a pretty incredible experience. Everything about the program helped me grow as an individual and learn from exposure to great coaches, leaders, teammates, advisors and counselors.”

Looking back, Kristina is quick to mention how much she appreciates the value of the academics, the travel opportunities and the general sense of camaraderie she enjoyed as a student-athlete.

“The fact that I got to continue in a sport I loved, and also get a massive amount of support in academics and a platform for my future, is something I really appreciate, especially now,” she says. “I think being a student-athlete is one of the best things a young adult can achieve, and I look at it in an entirely different way now than I did when I experienced it.”

Among a list of many enviable accomplishments and accolades, Kristina singles out winning the 2006 NCAA Championship on the uneven bars as a particularly proud moment in her college gymnastics career. 

“Not only was it a high achievement, but it was on an event that I had struggled with mentally throughout my career,” she explains. “It was an unexpected surprise, and a confidence builder.” 

After graduating from Utah in 2009, Kristina landed a position as an acrobat and dancer at Sea World, San Diego. She quickly discovered she enjoyed performing so much that she decided to pursue it as a career. This led her to a role in Le Reve, an aquatic production at the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Resort. Soon after that, Hollywood came calling, and Kristina found herself embarking upon a new professional path she had never expected.

“I got the opportunity to perform gymnastics stunts for the ABC Family Channel show ‘Make It or Break It,’ and I realized stunts were my new passion,” she remembers.

Kristina accepted an on-call position for Cirque Du Soleil’s Viva Elvis show and a move to Los Angeles ensued. She than launched a full-time career as a stunt performer for TV and film, appearing in major motion pictures like “Divergent” and “Ender’s Game.” Viewers may also recall her stand-out spot as a black-clad cat burglar in a Nationwide Insurance television commercial.

Physical feats notwithstanding, Kristina aspires to make a bigger name for herself with her photography skills. The Gaylord National in Washington, D.C. displayed some of her photographs during the 2009 NCAA convention as one of 12 student-athlete winners in an NCAA-sponsored art contest, and her work has appeared in the NCAA Champion magazine.

Being able to merge her many passions and talents into a successful career has been a meaningful accomplishment for Kristina.

“I have many philosophies I try to incorporate in my life, but one of my favorites is ‘feel the fear, and do it anyway,’” she notes. “Everyone’s experience and journey is different, but I would encourage current student-athletes to live in the moment and be open to the future!”

Biography

Kristina Baskett,
Stunt performer

Hometown: Normandy Park, Washington

Current city: Los Angeles, California

School: Bachelor degree in communication - electronic journalism; University of Utah, 2009

Sport: Gymnastics

Fun fact: Has performed stunts in more than 30 television shows and feature films, including “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and the upcoming December release of “Wild” in which she performs as the stunt double for Reese Witherspoon.