Training With Olympic Coaches

Eight-year-olds Cassidy Carn, Katie Lagman and Amelia Greenfield all have one goal: become an elite gymnast. And they are one step closer after learning from some of the best in the sport.

The girls were recently among 3,000 gymnasts ages seven to ten from all across the country that tried out for the Talent Opportunity Program (TOPS) run by USA Gymnastics. From there only 300 make it to nationals in October. Then the best of the best got the chance of a lifetime to go to TOPS camp held at the National Training Center in Texas earlier this month. The top 50 make the A team and the next 60 make the B. Olympic champion and coach Valeri Liukin, father of 2008 Olympic champion Nastia Liukin, and the rest of the national team coaches run the camp.

“Valeri runs the camp with the whole national staff that usually works with all the Olympians and all the elites that practice down there once a month,” said Diane O’Brien, Team Coach, Premier West Gymnastics. “So they got to work with some really big name coaches.”

Carn from Naperville Gymnastics and Lagman from Premier West Gymnastics in Oswego both made the ‘B’ team.

“It was really fun and I got to do a lot of things that I didn’t do before, like back layout step out on beam and back tucks,” said Carn.

“It was really fun and it was some hard work,” said Lagman.

Greenfield, also from Premier West, made the ‘A’ team.

“I learned a lot of new drills and I learned a lot of how to do my stuff correctly and how I can get higher scores,” she said.

The girls spent four days conditioning, working on flexibility and learning skills to take them to the next level.

The camp is for gymnasts who aspire to one day become an elite gymnast, the highest level possible.

“We’re trying to get them to be an elite gymnast and represent your country and compete nationally and internationally,” said Brittany Delk, Cassidy’s coach at Naperville Gymnastics. “For some kids maybe Olympics we’ll see.”

“I think just from going to camp it has built their confidence tremendously for the sport,” said O’Brien. “Whether they go on to the Olympics or go on to college gymnastics, this is an experience they will always remember.”

For the young girls, this was just the beginning of a dream they all share, to make it to the Olympics. So who’s their favorite gymnast?

“Gabby Douglas,” said Carn.

“Gabby Douglas,” said Lagman.

“Gabby Douglas. She’s won the gold and I really want to grow up and be like her. All the stuff she does is always perfect,” said Greenfield.

Cassidy, Amelia and Katie were the only eight-year-olds from Illinois to go to TOPS camp.

Naperville gymnastics also had one girl make it to nationals, but came up just shy of attending the camp.

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