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Dearing youth flips through gymnastics competitions

When Paige Kelley watched her daughter Abby take her first steps at only eight months old, she knew something would be different about her. The balance and control Abby possessed at an early age had Mrs. Kelley seeing visions of her daughter flipping and tumbling for years to come.


Abby Kelley, 4, poses on the balance beam.
Photo by Jim Blaylock/Morris News Service
Now at four years old, this Dearing girl is already performing moves that kids twice her age can't do. Abby attends classes at Gymnastics Gold on Baston Road in Martinez, and she was recently asked to be part of a traveling team that participates in competitions all over Georgia and South Carolina.

Mom and Dad couldn't be more proud. And Abby already has her eye on the Gym Dogs in Thomson.

"Hey, she's four; this is awesome," Mrs. Kelley said. "I'm just so proud of her. Every time I think about it I'm grinning from ear to ear."

Abby's gymnastics journey began when she was only 18 months old. She started taking a class that her mother intended for her to learn how to fall safely. She improved quickly from there.

"She's always been on her feet and just flipping and climbing on everything possible, much more than the average child," Mrs. Kelley said. "It just kind of started from there, and she just picked it up and loved it. She took to it so quickly."

After Abby showed high aptitude for gymnastics through those early classes, her father Sean Kelley and Mrs. Kelley decided that she was ready to progress to more advanced moves.

She started at Gymnastics Gold in January, and has impressed her teachers there. She can perform moves such as the soul circle dismount, the back walkover and the handstand dismount from the balance beam. Abby's coach Denise Jessen said most four year olds can't even do a handstand on the floor, much less on the balance beam.

"A little eight-year-old walked up to her the other day while she was doing something and she said 'I can't even do that,'" Mrs. Kelley said. "So Abby was pretty impressed."

"She's very far advanced for her age," Ms. Jessen said. "She has no fear level...She just enjoys flipping and spending more time on her hands than she does her feet."

The team that Abby has recently become a part of will participate in competitions from October through June. There will also be a local meet at Gymnastics Gold in January, but Abby's coach said she should be ready.

"She's very motivated to learn," Ms. Jessen said. "She wants to learn new things. She's the type of child who does better challenged. Being with somewhat older children doesn't bother her because she wants to strive for what they're doing."

Ms. Jessen said that typically children will participate in gymnastics lessons for one hour, once a week. But to be a part of the competition team, they can practice anywhere between four to 16 hours per week, depending on their level.


Photo by Jim Blaylock/Morris News Service
As for a future in gymnastics, everyone agrees -- if Abby wants to continue, there is nothing holding her back.

"If she stays in gymnastics, she definitely has the potential to do college gymnastics," Ms. Jessen said. "It's kind of hard to tell how tall she's going to be ten years from now, really it's more like 14 years from now. But she definitely has the potential to go far in gymnastics."

"(Getting to the Olympics) is not unheard of, but I'm shooting more for the Gym Dogs," Mrs. Kelley said.

Web posted on Thursday, June 3, 2004

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