Update: Gymnastics Stars Inspiring Next Generation

By: Jodi Baker Email
By: Jodi Baker Email

The Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions stops at the CenturyLink Center Saturday. The buzz is already strong among gymnasts of all abilities, inspired by the summer Olympic games.

Bronze medalist Jake Dalton, of the U.S. men’s team, was in town Tuesday to promote the event. He spoke with WOWT, in advance of a Children's Hospital visit, about the thrill of being in London.

“It was just something you’re never going to forget… and just to watch the women come back with a gold medal, it was amazing, especially because they’re so young,” he said. “To be on tour with them now as a big group, it’s just really, really exciting.”

At Premier Gymnastics, 107th and Browne St., gymnasts of all abilities are excited, as well, just to get the chance to see those stars up close and in person.

The Olympics, said Recreational Gymnastics Director Jamie Pritchard, provided a big catalyst for the sport. She said they’ve got double the number of recreational athletes this fall, compared with last year at this time. "We love the fact that the girls did so well, but we also love the fact that we can offer it to everybody,” she said.

In the Mini-Stars preschool class, Kyla Carroll, dressed in a brightly colored leopard print leotard, bounced proudly on a trampoline while her mother, Chelsea, watched from a large picture window. “She would always watch gymnastics with me, and she would see them doing flips and balance beam and she would say, mom I want to do that."

Kelly Wegner said that’s how her daughter, Reagan, became interested, too. "And she said look mommy, she did it by herself. I want to do it. And so we're here."

“I did (gymnastics) when I was little,” said Wegner, "and I think every little girl should get a chance to do it."

Sara Hildebrand used to practice in the same room, starting at the age of three. But now, she’s downstairs with the big girls, and at 16-years-old is at Premier’s top level, ten. “Actually, I competed against Gabby Douglas when she was in Virginia," said Hildebrand.

She recalls the gold medalist being just as good a couple of years ago. “I wanted to be that good, too, so I pushed myself harder at that meet."

Hildebrand isn't so much eying the Olympics, as she’s aiming for a college scholarship. "Believe in yourself, and you can do it," she said. The Fab 5’s London performance also helps to drive her. "I was just really proud of them because they work so hard, and it makes me want to work that much harder to get to my goals."

"We have a very young sport, so a lot of the kids that look up to them are four, five… so it's very important to have strong role models,” said Pritchard. She believes the stars from the Olympics games, led by 2008 Olympic all-around champ Nastia Liukin, are great examples for athletes, and for young ladies in general.

The men didn’t fair so badly themselves. Dalton was number one on the floor at trials, and placed fifth overall at the Olympic games. He said it’s very different performing on tour after competing for years. “It’s very different. You’re not so stressed out all the time… It’s more exciting and you’re ready for the show tonight, and you get to involve the crowd.”

Next stop for Dalton and the other gymnastics stars is Minneapolis, Thursday. They will be a the CenturyLink Center Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. performance. Tickets range from $27 to $202. They can be purchased at the CenturyLink box office or through Ticketmaster.

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