Future Olympians in Training: On the Mats

Future Olympians in Training
On the Mats
by Jennifer LB Leese

Deanna Kline, a coach at Four Star Gymnastics in Williamsport, is excited about the 2008 Summer Olympics. She went to the gymnastic trials four years ago in California with another coach named Sandy. They were in their glory.
Do you have a child who vaults from your couch or balances on everything long and skinny? You just may have a future Olympian.
Nationwide, approximately 600,000 children participate in gymnastics events. Gymnastics is one of the few sports that allows someone to either work toward a competition level, or they can utilize gymnastics for fun only.
The 2008 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, are an international multi-sport event, which will be held in Beijing, People's Republic of China from August 8 to August 24, 2008. Ten thousand five hundred athletes are expected to compete in 302 events in 28 sports - one event more than was on the schedule of the Athens games of 2004.
The Olympic games were awarded to Beijing after an exhaustive ballot of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on July 13, 2001. During the 112th IOC Session in Moscow, Beijing beat out Toronto, Paris, Istanbul, and Osaka.
The official logo of the games, titled "Dancing Beijing," features a stylized calligraphic character (meaning capital), referencing the host city.
The mascots of Beijing 2008 are the five Fuwa, each representing both a color of the Olympic rings and a symbol of Chinese culture. The Olympic slogan, One World, One Dream, calls upon the world to unite in the Olympic spirit.
The Chinese government has promoted the games to highlight China's emergence on the world stage. A total of 37 venues will be used to host the events including 12 newly constructed venues. Earlier in 2007, former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch had said that he believes that the Beijing games will be "the best in Olympic history."
Deanna is passionate about gymnastics and that was made clear during our interview - her hands were everywhere, she twisted and turned in her seat, and you can see that in her body language and in her eyes.
Deanna says that it is motivational to watch men and women who have "beautiful" - "perfect" - lines. "Everything about them is gymnastics.
"And when I come back and see my kids who have those same lines, it is a wonderful feeling. Every coach aspires to have that," she said.
"Gymnastics has existed for more than 2,000 years, but its development as a competitive sport began just little more than 100 years ago. During the 1800s, mass and individual exhibitions, were conducted by various athletic and school clubs, as well as ethnic organizations, like the Turnvereins and Sokols.
"Although slow to catch on in the schools, gymnastics did flourish in the Turnvereins and Sokols. It was introduced to the United States and its school systems in the 1830s by such immigrants as Charles Beck, Charles Follen, and Francis Lieber.
"The Bureau of the European Gymnastics Federation, which evolved into the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), was formed in 1881, opening the way for international competition. In the United States, the Amateur Athletic Union assumed control of gymnastics, along with most other amateur sports, in 1883. Prior to this time gymnastics championships were held by various clubs and organizations.
"The first large-scale meeting of gymnasts was the 1896 Olympics, where Germany virtually swept the medal parade. Gymnasts from five countries competed in events, which included men's horizontal bar, parallel bars, pommel horse, rings and vault.
"The first international gymnastics competition outside of the Olympics was held in 1903 in Antwerp, Belgium, where gymnasts from Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands competed in what is now considered the first World Championships. At St. Louis in 1904, the men's team combined competition was added to the Olympic program. The U.S. men swept all three team medals.
"At the ninth World Championships in 1930 at Luxembourg, the competition included the pole vault, broad jump, shot put, rope climb and a 100-meter sprint. Track and field did not fully disappear from the World Gymnastics Championships circuit until the 1954 competition.
"At the 1924 Games in Paris, the basis of modern Olympic gymnastics competition was firmly established. The athletes (men) began to compete for individual Olympic titles on each apparatus, as well as in combined individual and team exercises. The 1928 Games witnessed the debut of the first women's event, the team combined exercise, won by the Netherlands. The U.S. women first competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany.
"The United States Gymnastics Federation, now known as USA Gymnastics, became the national governing body of the sport in the United States in 1970." (USA Gymnastics)
"I live, breathe, eat, sleep, and do gymnastics," Deanna said, giggling. She loves everything about the sport. "I absolutely love teaching beam (and bars)," Deanna said. "It is fabulous to see these kids perform."
When asked about future Olympians at Four Star, she said that eleven-year-old Rayanna Anthony talks about it. "She is a champion. She went to states this year and got a 9.7 on floor at the State Meet Level 4. She's beautiful - everything is so slow and beautiful - it's effortless for her," Deanna said.
Some are born naturals; some need practice. If you have the world's next Olympic gold medallist balancing on your patio, and flipping across the yard, remember, it takes dedication from both. A sports mom or dad loses a lot of their time to practices, games, or performances.
"I can tell the first day who will do well," Deanna said. "I can see it in their facial expressions... everything."
According to Deanna, preteen is when you prepare to lead up to become a team member, but you can begin at any age. "My daughter has been doing rolls since she was a day old." She is now 9-years-old and is level 7 in the JO division. "She is soooo perfect - so beautiful." Deanna smiled, full of admiration.
Deanna frowned when stating that you rarely see gymnastics at elementary schools anymore. "Gymnastics is hard work, but it is also a fun form of exercise. The opportunity gymnastics gives children is huge."
The sport, as with many others, teaches balance, discipline, strength, endurance, coordination, confidence, and self esteem and it teaches young people to learn to listen and to follow directions.
Introduced at an early age gymnastics can help children master other sports such as baseball, football, basketball, wrestling, swimming, and tennis, through advanced conditioning & flexibility. Gymnastics also teaches participants the importance of rebounding from failure, repeating things over and over until they are mastered, and building upon your accomplishments.
For more information, log on to www.usa-gymnastics.org.
Four Star Gymnastics is located at Milestone Terrace in Williamsport. For more information stop by or call 301-223-6116. Four Star Gymnastics offers basketball, karate, birthday parties, pre-school parties, backhand spring clinics, back tuck clinics, and more.

Sources: Wikipedia.org, Reuters, New York Times, ABC news, and USA Gymnastics, People's Daily Online.