Local gymnasts look to Olympic athletes for inspiration

Local Sports

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) – Every four years, gymnastics comes to the forefront of the sports spotlight with the Olympics and many local gymnasts are looking to the professionals in Tokyo for inspiration.

A collegiate gymnast from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Mackenzy Walvatne, who lives in Panama City and trains at Edgewater, said that the sport should always receive the attention it gets during the Olympics.

“I love that gymnastics is so shown off in the Olympics,” Walvatne said. “When the Olympics come on every four years we definitely get the recognition we really deserve, that’s kind of overshadowed by other sports in between those four years.”

Edgewater gymnast, Madison Ford, said that watching Team USA is a big inspiration to her and her younger sister.

“When I’m watching the Olympics,” Ford said. “What me and my sister do, we always like we see a skill and we’re like we can do that, we can do that, and when we see all the hard skills that they’rere doing, it makes us really want to work harder.”

The biggest topic of the 2021 games with gymnastics has been super-star, Simone Biles, and her decision to opt-out of competition for mental health reasons.

It’s has been highly debated and a controversial topic, but Ford said that she and the Edgewater gymnasts stand with the Olympic Gold Medalist.

“They’re like, what happening, she just dropped out because she didn’t want to do it when really, she prioritized her mental health over winning a medal,” Ford said. “Which in the end, your mental health is like always what going to matter, over a medal.”

Aside from the spectacle of the competition this summer, the gymnasts truly love the opportunity to learn from the best.

“They’re all doing crazy connections, crazy skills, and I’m like huh, I never thought about connecting those skills together,” Walvatne said. “It’s really cool and it’s plausible, like it a possibility if you work a little harder, you can probably get that skill, so it’s really great to see that.”

The Edgewater Gymnastics program will be hosting a big competition later this year in December, with the Panama City Beach Cup Laurie Hernandez Champions Challenge. Winners of the competition will qualify to compete in Puerto Rico and meet the former Olympic Medalist herself.

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