Circus performer working toward public health degree

This was originally posted in the Digital Bullpen.

When Ivo Georgiev moved to the United States from Bulgaria in 2000, he never expected to find himself performing in a traveling circus.

Georgiev, a shy 33-year-old public health major at the University of South Florida, has competed in hundreds of acrobat competitions all over Europe. He has won five gold medals, as well as the title Master of Acrobatics as a professional trampoline acrobat, all by the age of 22.

“As a little boy, when you jump in the air, you feel like a ninja,” Georgiev said. “Being an acrobat let me feel like that all the time.”

Georgiev’s talent was first recognized when he was only 7 years old. During a soccer game in Bulgaria he jumped a very high fence. When the coach of the soccer team saw him, he instantly recognized his talent.
“The fence was very high, six or seven feet,” Georgiev said. “When I jumped it, the coach pointed at me and said ‘You were born to be an acrobat.’”

After that he began taking lessons in acrobatics and competing. When he was old enough, Georgiev joined the sport battalion of Bulgaria’s Marines and continued competing while representing his country.

In 2000, Georgiev was preparing to go the Olympics to represent Bulgaria, but when he received an invitation to join Mondial du Cirque, a Spanish circus, Georgiev decided that would be a better opportunity. He worked with them in Puerto Rico for eight months then joined a traveling troop sponsored by Air Sofia that performed all over the United States with shows such as The Ringling Brothers.

He mainly performed a Russian Swing act, an act in which acrobats propel themselves into the air using three sets of swings and then dive down into water, as well as a comedic acrobatic act. In January 2000, Georgiev even got to perform in the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta, with Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Toni Braxton and Enrique Iglesias.

“I am not the type of guy who wants the glory or to be famous. I chose to join the show because I thought it would pay off more in the end,” Georgeiv said. “I really loved what I was doing, but after 9-11, business went down. That’s when I realized I needed to focus on something else.”

In 2003, Georgiev began attending Hillsborough Community College and received an associate’s degree in nuclear medicine in 2007. He now works as a self-contracted radiology technician practicing with radioactive medicines at various hospitals around the state. At USF, Georgiev hopes to receive a bachelor’s degree so that he can move up in his field.

“With all the changes in the economy lately, especially with the health care bill, a bachelor’s degree will really help me,” Georgiev said. “I would love to be on the manager side of things one day.”

Until he graduates, Georgiev spends his time at USF working with the American Red Cross Club. He likes to attend their events and volunteers as much as his busy schedule allows.

“I love having him as a member of our club,” said Natalia Vandeberg, the public affairs chair of the club. “He is a great guy, very motivated.  I love having him in our small group.”

No matter where life takes him, whether he is a performer, a student or in the medical field, the lessons that Georgeiv learned as an acrobat will always stick with him.

“I could probably write a book on all the lessons I learned,” Georgiev said. “The two most important are dedication and discipline. When I start something, I will finish it. No matter how difficult or how many obstacles, I will finish it.”