CHS Gymnast Headed to Junior Olympic National Championships

By: Nate Sulham Email
By: Nate Sulham Email

Some of the best young gymnasts in the country will be in Long Beach, California this week for the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic National Championships.

Andrew Gamma is one of them.

The 17-year-old Charlottesville High School junior earned his way to the Golden State by qualifying at the recent seven-state Mid-Atlantic Regionals.

Now he'll get the chance to test himself against some of the country's best.

"There are really, really good gymnasts there who are amazing at what they do so it will be cool to be able to watch them and compete against them," Gamma said.

Gamma credits an improved sense of focus with helping him make it to Nationals. Having competed since he was eight-years-old, he's always had the background -- but not always the commitment.

So what made the difference this time?

"Change in attitude," Gamma explained. "I definitely worked harder and thought about form and stuff. In general, just a better work ethic."

His coach, Spencer Watkins, saw the transformation in practice. He believes all it took for Andrew to finally break through was passing a mental hurdle.

"Usually what stops your progression in the sport is you hit that skill that's just a little bit scary, and you don't want it anymore then you're scared of it," Watkins explained. "Andrew figured out where he was, figured out that he really wanted to work harder than what he was dealing with and has got a lot of skills because of it."

Those improved skills helped Gamma qualify at Regionals and now he's in the Junior Nationals because of it.

"He's one of those kids, he works hard, always looks good at practice but then when the pressure's on, he cleans up a little bit more, swings just a little bigger, so his stuff looked great," Watkins said of Gamma's performance at Regionals.

Watkins also says Gamma's renewed focus has him flying higher than he has in the past.

"He's working on double-backs; that's two flips before he hits the ground," Watkins explained. "He's working on double-twists. He's done some really big stuff on high bar."

"All the flips and stuff are really fun and it's fun to show different people all the flips I can do," Gamma added.

Andrew will take those flips with him to Nationals, but he won't be the only Gamma on the mat.

His father Joe, owner of Classics Gymnastics Center in Charlottesville, also doubles as Andrew's coach. Joe has been there from the beginning, and will have a front-row seat for his son's big moment.

"Well if you just make this one more piece of the big puzzle of what he's experienced over the last year and a half to 'I made it to Nationals, now I can compete on the big stage' and see how you stack up against the big boys, it gives you a really good sense of accomplishment," Joe Gamma said.

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