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For The Gold: Young Gymnasts Aspire to be the Final Five

Eden prepares for class with her Team USA jacket. Photo credit: Sarah Ploss
Classes at Head Over Heels Gymnastics start at 16 months, and that is nothing surprising for the sport.

The 16-month-olds pair up with their parents for the “Mommy and Me” class, creating a path for a future career in gymnastics.

Sarah Langendoerfer, the senior location leader at Head Over Heels Gymnastics, sees young athletes coming into the facility to train early on.

“Gymnastics is a sport of perfection … so instead of learning skills, even simple skills wrong, and then correcting them later, they start learning them right away,” she said.

After winning multiple medals in the Rio 2016 Olympics, the Women’s Gymnastics Team became a group of role models for young gymnasts to look up to and have even inspired young girls to join the sport.

Head Over Heels Gymnastics has seen the effects with a spike in enrollment in the seven- to nine-year-old classes.

“We don’t have an open spot in them. So, we got thinking that must’ve been the demographic — the kids who were old enough and know what was going on — to watch it and say I want to do that,” Langendoerfer said.

Dani Pasquarelli, an Ithaca College graduate student and instructor at Head Over Heels Gymnastics, has witnessed the impact the Olympics team has had on younger and younger athletes.

“She comes up to me, hands on her hips, all excited and says ‘I’m gonna be the next Simone Biles’ and was super proud of herself. She’s four so it was like her second gymnastics class ever,” Pasquarelli said.

Four might seem young, but in this sport, gymnasts are pulled from as early as preschool classes to begin their higher level training.

They go through conditioning, muscle training and form shaping practices to hopefully move on to places such as the Karolyi Ranch and other facilities like it by the age of nine.

Martha and Bela Karolyi opened the ranch as the United States Women’s training facility in 1981, helping them to create their Olympic dynasty, which ended with the Final Five this year.

These five girls have toured the world and with that, have become examples of what dedication can do.

“I see the U.S. team being as close to perfect as they possibly can and that comes with their dedication. That comes with their training hours. It comes with not accepting anything less than perfect from their coaches,” Langendoerfer said.

Langendoerfer explained how they now use the team’s successes and even mistakes as training material for girls of all ages at the gym.

Gymnasts from Head Over Heels Gymnastics will get the opportunity to see their idols in action when they travel to Rochester in November for the Kellogg’s Tour.

The Kellogg’s Tour will show the girls, in person, what is possible, even if at Head Over Heels Gym their goal is to get the gymnasts a college scholarship while having fun.

No matter what the goal, whether it be the gold or skills improvement, the FInal Five has had an undeniable impact on the sport of gymnastics.

“You see the kids come in with their leotards with their names on it and the replicas, you know different things like that. It’s a big deal,” said Langendoerfer.

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