Judy Spooner Viewpoint: These local gymnasts strive for Olympic stageI went to the Park gymnastics facility, known as the Wolf Den, and talked to young girls who are taking classes and hoping to join the Wolfpack varsity team when they are older. All but one of them would like to be on an Olympic team.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
I love the winter and summer Olympics and I was glued to the coverage. Like millions of Americans, I especially enjoy women’s gymnastics. I’ve also covered Park gymnastics, a program with a stellar record and statewide reputation under coach Mark Sikich.
Last week, I went to the Park gymnastics facility, known as the Wolf Den, and talked to young girls who are taking classes and hoping to join the Wolfpack varsity team when they are older.
All but one of them would like to be on an Olympic team. “I don’t,” said 7-year-old Tori Johnson. “It looks really hard.”
Tori’s favorite American gymnast is Gabby Douglas, winner of the all-around gold. “She’s the only name I remember,” she said.
The girls all have winning smiles to engage an audience so they’re off to a good start.
“When I ask gymnasts what their favorite event is, they never tell me it’s vault,” I told them.
Tori seemed insulted. “Well, it’s my third favorite,” she said.
Tori’s sister, Taylor, 9, likes uneven bars the best and her favorite Olympic team member is Ali Raisman.
Lauren Leyde has already told her mother she wants to train for the Olympics.
“It’s my one and only dream,” she said looking off in the distance as if she were imagining it.
Leyde also likes Gabby because she’s graceful on the beam and has a good personality. “I like the way she does uneven bars.”
Hannah Dufresne, 11, is also a Gabby fan because “she can fly” on the uneven bars.
Hannah’s favorite event is floor exercise because she feels free.
“It’s also not so scary,” said Kaytee Broskoff, who wants people to know she will be 11 next month, which makes her seem much older than when she was 10.
Kaytee looks forward to coming to gymnastics class.
“It’s my favorite part of the day,” she said. “I could do it eight hours a day. I have a beam at home.”
While we were talking about vault, Lindsey Raymond, the girls’ instructor, said it was one of her favorite events when she was a Park gymnast. The fact that their teacher was a gymnast seemed to surprise the girls. She earned her way to the state tournament all four years on vault and floor exercise, she said.
“She was on a very big stage,” I told the girls, and they were impressed.
The girls got tired of answering questions and wanted to show me that they can do endless cartwheels across the floor exercise mat.
They seem very confident about what they are doing and their ability to learn even harder moves. That’s the mark of a good teacher.
Lindsey, who graduated in 2002, doesn’t yearn to return to competitive gymnastics because that phase of her life is over. However, she likes being around the sport so teaching young girls is what she chooses to do.
I’m glad she does. These girls will grow up to be confident young women partly because Lindsey has planted “I can do it” in their minds.