Students “flip” over gymnastics

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The setting is August, 2008. Nehemiah Baker, who is a senior this year, watches the Beijing Olympic Games in utter fascination. Millions of people globally watch as athletes from a variety of different countries perform flips off platforms and hang from bars. Baker is immediately drawn to the sport, and the following day, he asks his mother if he could try it himself.

“It was three in the morning,” Baker said. “I stayed up all night to watch the guys compete, and the girls.”

This moment was the spark that inspired Baker to pursue gymnastics.

“In my opinion,” Baker said. “[Gymnastics] is the hardest sport in the world because it’s six sports put into one.”

In Men’s Artistic Gymnastics, there are six different events: floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars and horizontal bar. Women’s Artistic Gymnastics includes floor exercise, vault, uneven bars and balance beam.  A gymnast must be proficient in all of their categories, which demand balance, flexibility, strength and agility. It’s no simple task.

In my opinion, [gymnastics] is the hardest sport.”

— Nehemiah Baker

However, not everyone wants to commit so seriously to a sport. With difficult classes in school and managing jobs on the weekends, it’s nearly impossible to find the time to practice a sport as well. Gymnastics is popularly enjoyed as a hobby or recreational activity.

“I started when I was four,” senior Hannah True said. “My dance teacher decided I should probably move on to gymnastics because I liked the tumbling and rolling portion of dance.”

True preferred the more acrobatic aspects of dancing, which led to her discovery of gymnastics at a very young age. Some parents choose to enroll their children in gymnastics classes when they are as young as twenty months old.

“Besides dance,” True said, “there was the portion of tumbling that was not as girly, it was more strong.”

Gymnastics is often labeled as a feminine sport, despite being very physically demanding. An athlete must have strong arm and leg muscles in order to compete in the variety of events.

Not only can gymnastics keep an athlete physically healthy, it teaches lessons that can be applied to situations outside of the sport.

“[Gymnastics] taught me how to manage my time,” Baker said. “I’m in the gym, every day, three hours a day except for Sunday and I have to be able to balance that with school work.”

Keeping up not only with school activities, but a commitment to a sport as well can be challenging. Learning how to handle both at the same time is a valuable skill for success. Sports often encourage teamwork, too.

“Gymnastics was a team sport and an individual sport,” True said. “Your overall score would affect how the team placed in the meet. In any group work, you to have your individual part, but it also affects the whole group.”

While each event is scored separately for each gymnast, the total score of every member affects the team’s rank in competitions.

Whether for a career or recreational reason, gymnastics is a popular sport that requires physical ability, daily commitment and a cooperative attitude.

“Putting in the work always pays off, especially as time goes on,” Baker said. “The goal is always to either catch the bar or land on my feet.”