Tumbling their way to success

Choosing to partake in competitive sports of a more unorthodox fashion, some athletes at Diamond Bar High School are flipping and jumping to the unique styles of competitive gymnastics.

There are three levels of competitive gymnastics: compulsory, optional and elite level gymnastics. Compulsory ranges from levels one to five where athletes will be prepared for competitive events and perform set routines, whereas optional ranges from six to ten and requires athletes to perform routines that are curated to show off their strengths. The highest level, elite gymnastics, is similar to competing at the professional level.

Juniors Audrey Huang and Harry Kim have been involved with competitive gymnastics, both at optional and compulsory levels, for a large portion of their lives.

“When I started it was recreational, on smaller teams, and I began to build up my skills from there,” Huang said. “From there, I moved onto the compulsory level, which ranges from level one to five; I started at level four and now am competing at level nine and ten of optionals.”

Huang was introduced to gymnastics by her mom at the age of two and was put into competition shortly after her coaches saw potential. Since then, she has performed well and moved through the levels quickly, mostly due to her four to five hour daily practices.

“Back in 2018, there was a Region 1 Regional Meet where I won all five golds with a 38.575 All-Around,” Huang said. “It was also a personal best, this has been my greatest achievement so far.”

At this regional, Huang competed in Vault, Bars, Beam and Floor events as well as All-Around, which is scored based on the average of the performance across all four events.

In terms of her ranking, before the pandemic hit in 2020, Huang was ranked in the top 100 of America at the optional level. As of now, her future goals in gymnastics are to get a scholarship from a university and compete at the collegiate level.

On the other hand, Kim has been competitive since he started out in the sport, inspired to join after watching the 2012 Olympics. Currently, Kim practices five days a week for three to four hours at Eric Will Gymnastics.

While any sort of competitive pressure may arise for athletes, especially when competing at a high level so early in their lives, Huang and Kim both mention how nerves or pressure no longer bothers them as much, since, to them, it’s about improving the next time.

“I tend to set my expectations a bit too high for myself,” Kim said. “Due to this, it’s frustrating and brings me down whenever I barely miss them.”

Kim is aiming high, hoping to go to nationals and possibly the Junior Olympics so that he can get used to a more competitive state. These high level competitions are all in preparation of achieving his ultimate goal of competing at the Olympics.