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Guest Post: Overcoming the Odds

Kaelyn is a ten-year-old level 4 gymnast in the JO program at Virginia Elite Gymnastics Academy. She loves gymnastics even though she has some atypical challenges in building strength and skills.  Kaelyn’s story is a reminder that your body doesn’t have to be like everyone else’s in order for you to love and excel at sports, and that even when someone looks like they are effortlessly crushing in on social media, there may be more to the story that’s less obvious. Come as you are; gymnastics is for every body!

We’re proud of your determination, your positive attitude for yourself and your team mates, and your desire to share about your experience. Huge Thank-yous to Kaelyn and her mom, Anna, for sharing your stories!

Practice and Grit

Gymnastics is a sport requiring strength, coordination, determination and a mindset of never giving up. It is often said, “it is the will, not the skill.” Yet, from the beginning, most girls see great Olympians, girls in higher training levels in the gym, and even those on social media holding larger influence. When you see a person’s life from the outside, it is easy to judge and label them as inherently “good” or “bad” at this sport. This begins the story of Kaelyn.

gymnast kaelyn sun rising leotard

I am 10 years of age and from the outside, you may not know that I have differences making gymnastics not easy for me. I have high functioning autism, coordination disorder, ADHA, motor planning deficits, and a growth hormone deficiency. I also have hypogammaglobulinemia —  it is a long fancy word to describe my immune system not functioning well. You would not know this from the outside because I am a strong, happy, resilient kid! 

I sometimes laugh thinking of the days when I first finally got a cartwheel! It took private lessons and a long time. My mom said she knew right then I had one thing a lot of kids did not — serious grit and determination. 

Positive Attitudes, Passionate Coach, Determined Athlete

One of the first coaches I had was Mrs. Chrissy Hartman and I am lucky to still have her today! My mom asked her what the most rewarding part of coaching me was. She said, “watching her confidence grow in herself has been very rewarding. I’ve been lucky to be a part of her journey from the beginning, and it’s amazing to see how much she has overcome and accomplished. From watching her get so excited over the most basic skills to where she is now is why I do what I do and am so passionate about coaching gymnastics!” 

gymnast handstand balance beam determination

My mom also asked what has been the most challenging part of coaching me or where I need more of her attention. She said, “I find that she sometimes still struggles with coordination and that some things take a bit longer for her to pick up/understand...but I also think that we have a connection that makes jumping those hurdles a bit easier!”

If there is one thing I would like kids to know, it is that you can do this, too. Even if you're not the one who medals at every meet — like me! You may not be the strongest yet, and you may not have the ability to hold your handstand the longest. You may take a lot longer to get your skills than all of your teammates. Always go for it, work hard, and never give up on what your dream is! I always cheer for my teammates and encourage everyone. My mom always says “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” You can do this!


We want to share your unique gymnastics story! Tell us about a triumphant moment, a hard-won victory, or about your favorite way to relax with your gym besties away from practice. 

What has been your experience as a gym owner or other gymnastics leader during 2020? Describe your vision for the ideal future of the sport, or tell us a funny story. Gosh, we love funny stories. 

Click here to read more about the process and apply. No writing experience necessary!