Gymnastics not just for Summer Olympians

Dave Mathieson
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AMHERST - When snowboarders take to the slopes at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, some of the best in the world will be the Chinese, who have gone from obscurity to the top of the podium in five short years.
The quick rise to the top was achieved by the fact that most of those Chinese athletes were plucked from their country's gymnastics program.
Amherst Aerials gymnastics coach Michelle Landry said she's not surprised by their success.
"Gymnastics teaches body awareness," Landry said. "And I don't think there's any other sport where you need to have as much strength as you need for gymnastics.
"And gymnastics is transferable to many other sports. We've had people come from gymnastics and go to taekwondo and the flexibility they have has helped and we've also had them go into skating. It's going to help an athlete with pretty much any sport they go into."
Landry and several of her experienced gymnasts were teaching classes for young kids last night at the club. The three and four year olds took to the floor and other apparatus from 5-6 p.m., then the four and five year olds took over from 6-7 p.m.
"They all come in and do a general warmup and play games and then we do a circuit on each event - a circuit on floor, a circuit on vault, a circuit on beam and a circuit on bars," Landry said. "They do all the basic things like running, jumping, landing, walking on the beam. It's all age appropriate and the main thing is for them to have fun."
Starting kids early has its advantages.
"It teaches them little things, like how to fall," Landry said. "You wouldn't think anything of it, but when you teach them how to fall when they're little, they carry that through the rest of their life.
"We actually used to have a parent and tot group for ages eight months to three, where the kids would come in with their parents and go through the circuits, but we don't have a coach for that class any more."
Landry coaches several boys in both classes.
"I know a lot of people who, when they think about gymnastics, think it's for girls, but over the past few years gymnastics for boys has really increased in the province, especially since David Kikuchi competed at the Olympics," she said.
Kikuchi, who is from Fall River, has competed at the Summer Olympics, the Commonwealth Games and at the world championships.
"He has definitely raised the interest in gymnastics for boys in the province," Landry said.
The young boys and girls at last night's practice might go on to achieve Olympic glory in gymnastics but, if not, we might get to see them, thanks to gymnastics, in snowboarding at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Organizations: Commonwealth Games

Geographic location: AMHERST, Vancouver, Fall River

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