COUNTDOWN TO RIO 2016
Just a couple months from now, all eyes will be on Rio and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Gymnastics is one of the marquee and most anticipated sports of the Games. Every four years the world focuses their attention on a group of young girls from a host of nations, competing for that coveted gold medal, as both a team and individuals. It is the time between Olympics, however, when gymnasts toil in relative obscurity, working towards their goal. By the time these kids get to the Games, still just teenagers, they will have spent countless hours of their young lives in the gym, training for this moment, with millions watching, on the biggest sport stage in the world.
My 11-year old niece, Ellie, is a competitive gymnast, training with her teammates Talia, Sophie, Sophia, Gia, Abby, Daisy, Cassie, Hannah, Willa, CeCe, Cecily, Charlotte, Amelia and Galena on the NYC Elite team. Ellie competed in Level 6 last season. Each level is designated 1 through 10 by the US Gymnastics Association and characterized by increasingly difficult skill requirements. With her teammates, Ellie is looking to move up to Level 7 or 8 next year. With three gym locations in Manhattan, NYC Elite is considered the best team in New York City and is the only structured developmental gymnastics program in town. The girls are handpicked to be members of the team.
For those of you who follow the Style Of Sport Instagram, you might have noticed I’m amazed/obsessed by Ellie and her crew. She is what I dream and pretend to be… a real “athlete.” Watching her evolve into this level of gymnast, performing the moves I could never imagine any relative of mine being able to do, is mind blowing, but what’s most impressive is the time and dedication it takes.
Last season, Ellie and her teammates trained 4 hours a day, 4 days a week. This coming year the commitment goes up to 20 hours, which means every day after school, from 4pm to 8pm, they will be in the gym training; not just practicing their events, but doing all-around conditioning as well. When practice is done, they will go home to eat dinner, do their homework and sleep. It’s a schedule not so different from a professional athlete, except they are not professionals, they are little girls. They have a saying at NYC Elite: If gymnastics were easy, they would call it football.
There are 5 spots on the Olympic Gymnastics team for Rio 2016 — a decrease from the previous 6. For Tokyo 2020 it is being reduced again to 4. Given how many great gymnasts there are and how few spots there are on the team, it is a long shot for any of these girls to make the Olympic team in 2020, but their commitment at such a young age is what makes them contenders.