BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. — A Blue Springs gymnastics center hopes to send four of its female gymnasts to the Olympic Trials in St. Louis this summer.
GAGE Center, 1101 Northwest Jefferson Street, is known for producing Olympic worthy athletes. In 2004, two of its athletes made it to the Olympic team – Terin Humphrey and Courtney McCool. The team won silver in the all-around competition in Athens.
In 2008, Ivana Hong was an alternate on the women's gymnastics Olympic team. In 2012, Sarah Finnegan was an alternate on the team.
This year, Coach Al Fong believes four of his athletes – Leanne Wong, Aleah Finnegan, Kara Eaker and JaFree Scott – could make it to the Olympic trials.
All but Scott have qualified for the U.S. Gymnastics Championship. Scott will have to perform well in upcoming competitions to qualify, but her coaches have no doubt she will. At the championships, a select group will be picked to compete at the Olympic Trials in St Louis this summer.
"This particular quadrennium, 2020 we ended up with four athletes who have a great chance at making the Olympic Trials, but two have a really great chance at making the Olympic team," Fong said.
Fong's four athletes now are working hard to ensure they are in top shape for the upcoming competitions.
"It's mind blowing because I never thought I would make it this far," Scott said.
Each athlete spends more than 30 hours per week, perfecting every jump and dismount in hopes of competing at the Olympics.
"Ever since I can remember what the Olympics were, it was like that is something I want to do," Finnegan said.
But the dream, Wong said, comes with sacrifices.
"From school, we have had been leaving early since the third grade and having to do a whole bunch of online classes in order to graduate from high school," Wong said.
Along with the sacrifices, they have faced a waiting game as the Summer Olympics were postponed last year due to COVID-19.
"It was very devastating to hear that they were going to reschedule it, but thinking about it and how we have had all that time to progress and upgrade and also recover from all the injuries we had, it was a good step back and a mental reset," Eaker said.
For now, these athletes will continue to wait and train – because they all want a chance to be called an Olympian.
"I know it will all be worth it in the end," Eaker said.
The U.S. Gymnastics Championships will be held June 3-6 in Fort Worth, Texas. Then, the gymnastics Olympics Trials will be held June 24-27 in St. Louis .