If you have been following gymnastics for any length of time, odds are you have heard of a particular gymnast by the name of Carly Patterson. You probably also know that she is one of the youngest female Olympic gymnasts ever - and that she has stunned the world of late with her astounding abilities. In 2004, she became the first all-around Olympic champion for the United States in more than two decades, and was also the first to win for the US in the past two games, an amazing feat indeed, considering these past Olympic games were fully attended! The last female all-around gymnastics champion for the United States won in 1984, when the Soviet Union had boycotted the Olympics entirely.
Carly was born on February the fourth, 1988, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to a pair of loving parents - her mother, Natalie, and her father, Ricky. She is the first of a pair of girls (her younger sister is Jordan). Currently, she lives with her mother, her sister, and her pets in Allen, Texas. A straight-A student, she is almost a normal teenager when it comes to taste in music, boys, and shopping. However, one thing sets her apart from the rest of the crowd, even beyond her academics: she spends more than thirty hours a week training in her Texas academy. Of course, she could not have gotten to where she is currently without help. This logically leads to the question - what makes a champion?
Carly started early on with her gymnastics career. In 1994, she began taking classes after attending a friend’s birthday party at Gymnastics Elite, a gym facility in Baton Rouge, and meeting the head coach there. After five years of training, what began as a sport became a true career: she won her first state title in 1999 for Louisiana.
Then, she and her family moved to Texas, which gave her the chance to train at some of the best gymnastics gyms in the United States. She worked with Evgeny Marchenko and his team at the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in Plano, Texas, and within a year completed the Top Gym Tournament in Belgium in second place, taking the bronze medal in the beam event, and won the all-around gold at the American Team Cup. Thus began her rise to super-stardom in the world of gymnastics. She took dozens of titles, national and international, competing across the globe. Then, of course, she competed in the 2004 Olympics…and the rest, as they say, is history.
Certainly, her coaches had a lot to do with her success. They gave her the practical experience needed for proper training and for the creativity she displays in her favored events. Good gymnastics schools, dedication to her work, and certainly the allure of championships kept her motivated, and as she won title after title, she improved with the help of internationally renowned teams of gymnasts. And, too, love of the sport itself inspired by her coaches and her mentors aided her to the point where she is today…but to attribute all of her success to the work of these individuals would be erroneous without, of course, mentioning her parents.
Her mother, Natalie, and her father, Ricky, played perhaps the most important role in any young person’s life. They gave her encouragement; they were there when she needed them. This goes doubly for Miss Patterson, for they also showed confidence and interest in her gymnastics endeavors-in fact, by enrolling her in Gymnastics Elite, they gave her a good running start for motivation. It was with their help, too, that she got through some of the most difficult times of her career thus far. An injury to her elbow kept her out of several national and international championships; it was with her parents’ support that she was rehabilitated, and has now risen to become an Olympic star.
You, as a parent of a gymnast, can certainly take this to heart. You don’t have to be particularly well off to give your gymnast the confidence they need to become the best. In fact, all you have to do is encourage your child; if they show interest in the sport, let them participate. If they do well, encourage them further.
They’re already champions.
By Murray Hughes
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