Dreaming the Olympic Dream

August 08, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

WILLIAMSPORT - As sure as Bekah Baker looks while doing a difficult Yurchenko vault, she's as uncertain as to whether she wants to be an Olympian.

The 13-year-old Greencastle, Pa., resident has daydreamed about being in the international spotlight. In her dream, she is doing her floor routine and, of course, wins the gold medal.

Brighid Heneghan, 13, of Knoxville, Md., doesn't even allow herself to think about one day making the Olympic team.

Bekah and Brighid are among dozens of young girls in the Tri-State area who practice gymnastics at 4-Star Athletic Complex in Williamsport to compete at events.


They, like many of the girls, plan to watch the U.S. gymnastics team compete in the Summer Olympics in Athens. The gymnastics competition begins Saturday, the day after the opening ceremonies.

A gymnast who wants to make the Olympic team has to practice at least 35 to 40 hours per week, said Nica Sutch, owner of the complex.

Many of Sutch's students use the USA Gymnastics' skill-level designations, which are the ones that should be used to be an Olympian, she said.

The competition level goes from level 4 to level 10. Sutch has two students at level 9.

If Sarah Elwood, 9, of Hagerstown, achieves a certain score at a competition on Tuesday, she will go from a level 4 to a level 6, Sutch said.

Sarah, who has been doing gymnastics for two years, has a lot of potential, Sutch said.

Sarah said she's even surprised herself.

"I like gymnastics and I like to work hard and get new things" such as the back tucks on the low beam she has been practicing, Sarah said. A back tuck is a backward roll in the air in a tucked position.

Sarah said she wants to be an Olympian and is willing to practice more than the 20 hours per week she does now to achieve that goal.

Sisters Caileigh Oliver, 12, and Emily Oliver, 10, of Martinsburg, W.Va., also want to be Olympians one day.

"It seems like so much fun to compete for the U.S., meet new people and travel," Caileigh said.

"It's really fun to do all these tricks and stuff," Emily said. "It's also fun to compete."

Brittany Martin, 14, of Boonsboro, has no Olympic aspirations.

"I just do it for fun," Brittany said.

Like several of her fellow gymnasts, she watched some of the Olympic trials on television.

Being on television is why Brooke Cobb, 7, of Martinsburg, aspires to be an Olympian.

"I think it's cool being on TV," she said.

Two of the 7-year-olds want to be in the Olympics so they can do the more difficult skills.

Terra Cook, 7, of Hancock, wants to be in the Olympics so she can do a fancy dismount from the beam.

Brittany Rimmer, 10, of Martinsburg, said when she was "littler," she really wanted to be an Olympian, but now she's not sure she could make the team.

But, Brittany said she still enjoys gymnastics because she's good at it, it's cool and she gets to show off in physical education class.

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