Former Olympic Hero Leads Clinic For Area Gymnasts

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Kylie Joson

Staff Writer

BERLIN – It’s not
everyday the Eastern Shore gets a visit from an Olympic gold medallist and
national sports hero.

On Monday July 12, Kerri
Strug paid a visit to the Twister Gymnastics in Berlin to conduct a clinic. At
the clinic, she played a video and gave a short speech, which was followed with
questions and answers. After that, she led the gymnasts in a warm up with
conditioning and stretching. At the end of the clinic, she had an autograph and
photo session with the kids.

 “I enjoy coming to do camps and clinics
across the nation. I have a DVD video where I show them what I did in 1996 and
my earlier performances,” Strug said. “I talk about what gymnastics has done
for me and how it’s important to stay focused and persevere. I tell them that
we should set small and big goals for our self and if we push ourselves past
where we think we can go we become that much better of a person mentally and
physically.”

From Tucson, Ariz, Strug
was a member of the “Magnificent Seven,” the gymnastics team that represented
the United States at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. She is best remembered for
her performance on the vault, despite having seriously injured her ankle. She
preformed a spectacular vault, landing on one foot before collapsing in pain.
It is widely believed that this vault clinched the gold medal for the U.S.

Strug became a national
sports hero for her final vault, visiting President Bill Clinton, appearing at
various television talk shows, making the cover of Sports Illustrated and
appearing on a Wheaties cereal box with other team members.

“I think I have a unique
opportunity because of my past to try to have an impact on today’s youth,”
Strug said. “Many of them were not even born when I competed but the gymnastics
community is relatively small and with technology today I’ve been very lucky
that they can watch me on you tube.”

Carmella Solito, coach
and owner of the Twisters Gymnastics, said, “It’s great to have Kerri come visit
our kids plus I’m a big fan. It was great to see her push through and win one
for the team. That’s one of the things I try to instill in our girls, it’s
about team and working for each other. Someone like Kerri coming and
reiterating that to the kids is really special.”

Solito added, “Kerri
coming to visit is a good motivation for the kids because this year the kids
did really well. We won a lot of state meets, we won the team cup and it helps
them strive for the next level of gymnastics. It’s good for the recreational
kids too and everyone because it shows them that she is a real person and the
goals they set for them self are attainable.”

The Twisters have
classes for every budget and start as young as 10 months old. They are
competitive but also recreational, which a lot of people don’t realize. 

One of the messages
Kerri wanted to pass on to the kids was, “How important it is to stay focused
and motivated.”

She talked about how
being involved in gymnastics or being physically active helps you stay out of
trouble and can give you a healthy lifestyle. This may be in terms of making
the right decision when it comes to food choices or even just getting used to
exercising so when you decide to move on and not be so involved in gymnastics
arena, it’s still apart of you and you want to be active and get those
endorphins moving.

“This is a really
important message with the epidemic we have with childhood obesity,” Strug
said.

In 2003, Strug moved to
the Washington D.C. area. She claims, “I really miss the west and my family
but, nonetheless, I’m really taking advantage of all that Washington has to
offer. … I’ve never been to Ocean City because I haven’t had time but I do plan
on coming back for pleasure sometime in the future.”

 

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