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HOMETOWN HEROES: Olympic gymnasts inspire up-and-coming Fort Wayne athletes

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC News) - Every day, gymnasts spend hours training physically and mentally in hopes of becoming Fort Wayne’s future olympians.

Kristen Hines, owner of More Than Gymnastics, says students of all ages begin learning basic skills like the vault, the bars, the beam and the floor.

“They’ll go through all progressions. They’ll go through our program and they’ll try to get as many skills as they can, in the different levels that we have,” Hines said.

“It’s a great way to learn how to become active,” she continued, “most of the gymnasts that spend a lot of time here, even when they get older, they stay active. They find a different sport, they understand their body, they are living a lifestyle that keeps them happy.”

We asked two 8-year-old girls, already doing impressive flips, what inspires them.

“Simone Biles,” one said shyly, “I want to grow up just to be like her and to do all the flips that she can do.”

Hines uses popular athletes like Biles, to illustrate the discipline that goes into the sport.

“Simone Biles is someone who’s just taken the sport, and moved it up a level,” she told us, “it inspires everyone to know that if you work hard and you’re trying to do the best you can be you have no idea what the end result can be, it just keeps going forever.”

“I talk a lot about when Simone is flipping in the air, twisting in the air, that she knows exactly where she is,” Hines added, “She spots the ground when she takes off, she spots the ground when she’s in the air, she spots the ground when she lands. My hope is that the girls, when they’re doing their skills, no matter how basic, that they take that concept and put it in there.”

17-year-old Ashley Szymanski performs gymnastics at a competitive level.

“I like just seeing everybody else, loving the sport when they compete. It’s so cool to see so many other people doing such great skills in gymnastics, and just being able to compete with them is just so cool,” she said, “I’m just so excited to see team USA win again honestly, and it is inspiring to show these amazing skills!”

Hines explained to Fort Wayne’s NBC TODAY, age isn’t a factor when learning such a physical sport.

“You have inspiration from Oksana Chusovitina, where she’s 46 and still trying for the Tokyo Olympics,” she said.

Chusovitina is another example future olympians can look up to.

Representing Uzbekistan, she competed in her 8th Olympics, first winning a gold medal in 1992, ending her career to a standing ovation, in Tokyo.

Hines shared the best part of teaching her students, at More Than Gymnastics, “to see the look on their faces when they do something they didn’t think they could do.”

You can find more information on Hines and her programs, on their website here.

Julian Teekaram

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