TOANO — Dreams Gymnastics Center was packed full of young gymnasts from the 757 as USA gymnastics stars Katelyn Ohashi and Trinity Thomas visited for a day-long clinic on July 21.
LR Productions helped Dreams Gymnastics Center launch the opportunity to bring Ohashi and Thomas to the Toano-based gym. Gymnasts had to fundraise at least $250 to attend the clinic. All of the money raised will go towards new equipment for the gym.
Maddie Sipe, a rising senior at Warhill High School and competitive gymnast, couldn’t believe that Ohashi and Thomas were standing in her gym. She watched the two like a hawk during the day and credits them as an inspiration to her.
“It’s totally awesome seeing what they’ve accomplished and being able to be in the room with them. It really puts it into perspective that they’re not just on TV and that they are real people who are here in my gym where I practice every day,” Sipe said.
As she prepares for college, Sipe would love the opportunity to compete at the collegiate level and follow the footsteps of Ohashi and Thomas.
“It’s intimidating because they are so amazing at what they do. That said, I’m so inspired and impressed with everything that they’ve accomplished. They are so humble and they are so kind,” Sipe said.
However, Williamsburg-area gymnasts weren’t the only ones in attendance. Kyra Yasay-Richeson came to the clinic from California. After daring her mom to find her favorite gymnast, Donna Yasay-Richeson found the information about the Williamsburg clinic. Kyra was one of the top two fundraisers, donating over $3,640.
“I dared my mom to find Katelyn Ohashi and she happened to find this event,” Kyra Yasay-Richeson said.
“We don’t attend this gym, we’re not even from this coast. This is her dream and she loves gymnastics. Katelyn’s story is exactly like Kyra’s,” Donna Yasay-Richeson said.
Kyra Yasay-Richeson’s eyes were on Ohashi the whole time, sparkling anytime the gymnast looked in her direction.
“I love Katelyn’s creativity and fun attitude. She has a really cool routine that isn’t like any other routine out there. I freaked out as soon as I saw her and was really nervous. It’s such a super cool moment,” Kyra Yasay-Richeson said.
The line for autographs was long, but Thomas and Ohsahi greeted every gymnast with a smile and a hug. The two of them understand what it means to be role models in the gymnastics community.
“We are something really tangible in our sport for these girls. If you think about the top 1% in our sport, it’s four or five girls every four years. Of course, that is everyone’s dream, but we’re realistic role models and superheroes to these girls. It’s really special to be able to motivate girls and remind them that we were once at the same level as them,” Ohashi said.
Thomas just wrapped up a career competing for the University of Florida. Though she’s finished competing for the Florida Gators, Thomas has now taken on a position as a coach. Her run as a competitor isn’t done either, as she recently announced that she is training for a spot on the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games team.
“I’m doing what I love and taking it one step at a time. I’m living in the moment and enjoying every part of it. I love gymnastics, I love the University of Florida. I love being out here with these kids. My goal is to just continue to do what I love,” Thomas said.
Ohashi’s floor routines were viral sensations. A member of the UCLA 2018 NCAA National Champion-winning team, Ohashi has since graduated from the school and is pursuing her passions. With multiple projects going on at one time, Ohashi remains true to herself by always reminding herself of the importance of being a role model to young boys and girls across the globe.
“I remember being younger and hearing people say, ‘if you quit, then I can quit too’ and it always stuck out to me. I feel like role models are there to guide you and something about my journey is that it doesn’t look like a lot of people’s. I realized through gymnastics that everyone’s journey is so different and it doesn’t have to look just like someone else’s. Being someone’s role model doesn’t have to be someone with the same goals or same path,” Ohashi said.
While at these clinics, Ohashi and Thomas not only get the opportunity to offer advice on gymnastics skills, but also the skills that it takes to be a good teammate, a good athlete, how to inspire themselves, and how to remain humble.
Both noted that the clinics take them back to their time at National Team Camp, where they had the opportunity to train alongside the nation’s top gymnasts, some of whom were previous Olympians.
“Going from watching everyone on the screen to actually practicing with them, that was so surreal. I walked in and remember thinking, ‘there are six Olympians in here right now and I’m in the same practice as them,’ which was weird at first. It was really cool because they were all so accepting and took me under their wing and wanted what was best for me. To experience that and be able to come in here and basically do the same thing for these girls is really special because I know how much it means,” Thomas said.
The day wrapped up with dinner together with both Thomas and Ohsahi. The gymnasts got the opportunity to ask all their burning questions and spend more time with the two gymnasts. Autographs and all, it was a day that Dreams Gymnastics Center will never forget.
“The event was a really wonderful and fun experience. All quotes back from parents were ‘exceeded expectations.’ We really didn’t know what to expect beyond that we will meet Katelyn & Trinity, but they both have amazed us with their exclusive performance, sharing their passions, their inspiring stories of struggle and overcoming obstacles or injuries, and how they become such cheerful young ladies,” Dreams Gymnastics Center owner Galina Yordanova said. “LR Production really had a nice organization and managed everything in a timely manner. We are excited for the upcoming season, to meet other elite athletes and work with them in the near future.”