The Butler-Mason YMCA is flipping and turning at Olympic proportions this week.
Since Sunday, about 80 gymnasts from 10 gyms have visited the facility to learn from the best of the best during the week-long “Team South Georgia Summer Training Camp.” The event is designed to train the gymnasts for the the season set to start in September.
Among the 25 camp coaches and judges is former USA Olympian Hope Spivey.
In 1988, Spivey, of Suffolk, Va., competed in the Seoul Olympics alongside Phoebe Miller and Brandy Johnson.
Even though Spivey did not take home a medal, she wor four NCAA titles at the University of Georgia. She was named the SEC Athlete of the Year in 1994 and left Georgia with an NCAA-record 27 perfect scores of 10.
Now many years after the Olympics and the awards at UGA, she still maintains a close connection with gymnastics, bringing her passion to future gymnasts like the ones attending the summer gymnastics camp at the Butler-Mason YMCA.
“This is about bringing the kids together and expanding the knowledge and training of gymnastics in the state of Georgia,” said Spivey, who lives in Virginia with her daughter, but hopes to return to Georgia again.
YMCA gymnastics director Kristen Morrison is excited to have the group together at the Y and feels that it is blessed to have the opportunity to host the camp.
“There are so many talented athletes, coaches and judges here this week. Everyone has been working so hard and most of the gymnasts, if not all of them, have achieved new skills this week,” said Morrison. “The girls have been very encouraging to one another. It’s great to see the camaraderie between the teams and everyone working together as one unit.”
The Thomasville gymnasts have learned a great deal from the coaches already.
Emily Deese, 12, has been involved with gymnastics for two years.
She said, “There’s so many different things to do with gymnastics and so many different skills. I never get bored.”
Patten O’Neal, 12, learned how to do a front tuck.
“With a front tuck, you have to run, bounce up and flip over,” she explained.
Mary Grace Crowley, 9, has been involved in gymnastics for a short period but has already learned many of the floor exercises and things that she has always wanted to do.
She said, “I became interested in gymnastics when I saw a group of girls at my school doing flips and stuff. I told my mama I wanted to be in gymnastics and she signed me up. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Maddie Rone, 11, and Emmy Hayes, 12, are following in the footsteps of their gymnastic idol, Gabby Douglas.
Rone said, “I love watching Gabby Douglas. Here at camp I have learned new things and continue to get better. I see gymnastics in my future, just like Gabby Douglas.”
Hayes said it is exciting that Spivey is coaching the area gymnasts.
“I think it’s really cool. It let’s me know I’m doing something right when she tells me I’m doing a good job. It also let’s me know I could be in the Olympics just like her someday,” said Hayes.
Reporter Susanne Reynolds can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1826.