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Paragon Gymnastics in Central Park produces high scoring young gymnasts who could someday be representing the United States at the Olympic Games
Clarissa Lester, 10, practices gymnastic movements on the balance beam during a class at Paragon Gymnastics.
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Date published: 8/10/2008
At the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, seven young women were the first American women's gymnastics team to win gold.
A few years before, "The Magnificent Seven" were children walking on a balance beam, swinging from an uneven bar or vaulting for the first time.
To get to the Olympics, these young women practiced every day to build their strength up to gold.
At Paragon Gym in Central Park, gymnasts, ages 4 to 13, are strengthening themselves for Olympic medals and college scholarships.
"Maybe one of these girls will be in the Olympic games," said head coach Valentina Pintchouk. She coached a set of twins from the time they were 6 years old who went to the 1992 Olympic games. One of the sisters went again in 1996.
As a coach, she said, she is looking for "the whole package." To her, that means a gymnast who has stance, flexibility, the right body shape, involved and supportive parents, personality, lives a healthy lifestyle and who also has a good relationship with her coach.
Paragon is a relatively young gym, opening only three years ago. Its gymnastics team won third place in the state at a competition last year.
Paragon offers competitive and recreational gymnastics opportunities for children.
"They get stronger and stronger every year," head coach Craig Tetreault said of the 10-year-old gymnasts at Paragon. "I think that's really the essence of our sport, to tap into that strength."
Tetreault's parents owned a gymnastics school when he was growing up in Connecticut. He was coached by three-time American Olympian Abie Grossfeld at Southern Connecticut State University. In his senior year, Tetreault was captain of his Division 1 gymnastics team.
According to Tetreault, there are 147 kids under age 13 involved in gymnastics at Paragon. They live throughout the Fredericksburg area, including King George, Caroline and Culpeper counties.
"Their skills are directly related to their strength," said Tetreault. The higher their strength level, the higher their skill level.
But, small habits like toes crossing can cost a gymnast points in competition, even a tenth of a point. That tenth of a point could be the difference between making it to the Olympics and not making it.