Cheerleader of the Week 2016: Zhanna

Meet the Colts Cheerleader Of The Week

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At 13, most kids are learning how to deal with homework and hormones. For Colts rookie cheerleader, Zhanna, her teenage years were a whole new world.

"I was born and raised in Voronezh, Russia. I moved when I was almost 13," she says.

Her mother's best friend from Russia moved to Iowa and introduced her to a man she fell in love with.

"They had the fairytale story and she got married and we got to move here to the States," she says.

But it wasn't a fairytale for her – at least, not right away.

"I didn't know the language and I moved at that age when it's the teenage years. It was hard – trying to learn the language and adjust to a different culture and making new friends."

Not to mention, the place she moved to, Lafayette, Indiana, was nothing like the place she came from.

"We had a big city, we had over a million people there who used public transportation, it was way different from Lafayette – which was mostly cornfields. It was a different type of lifestyle."

Indianapolis Colts Cheerleader: Zhanna

While in Russia, Zhanna danced from an early age and eventually took up rhythmic gymnastics. When she moved to Indiana, she had to give that up too.

"In Lafayette, there was no rhythmic gymnastics. The closest place I could have done it would have been in Chicago," she says. "But again, it kind of helped me to look into the others things I was able to do in middle school."

She ended up playing volleyball, basketball, ran track, and took up dance again.

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"I wasn't dancing nonstop. I think there was a period where I had a hole in me and something was missing. I was like, 'Ok, I can always go back to dancing.' I knew it was something that I was pretty good at and it made me happy."

When she graduated from high school, she moved to Indy, got a degree in accounting, and quickly realized it wasn't for her.

"Unfortunately, I just don't think I'm a person who can sit at a desk. Right now, I'm a gymnastics coach and I've been coaching for eight years. It's right up my alley," she says. "I can always move around and the best part is, I get to work with kids. That's probably my favorite part about it."

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After dancing for the Pacers for a year, she took a few years off and had a better idea of what she wanted out of life. She attended the last Colts game of last season with a friend who suggested she become a cheerleader. Her response, "I don't know." By the end of the game, she was convinced. Now finishing up her rookie season, she loves it more than she ever thought she would.

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"Being a Colts cheerleader, you're able to manage your adult life and what you grew up doing, which is dancing for me, and put it together – being an adult, but still being able to do what you love."

Zhanna tries to get back to Russia every other summer to visit her dad, her grandma, and other family and friends.

And while Russia still feels like home, so does Indiana now.

"I definitely feel that I have two homes, considering I lived half of my life in Russia and then half of it here."

And her heart is in both places.

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