A pair of young acro-gymnasts in Kilgore have set their sights on the highest possible podiums, with years of practice ahead of them.
Kilgore Acro Flyers Trent Wolf and Landon Davis joined five other teammates at a training camp this fall, returning with Olympic aspirations.
“It's feasible that within the next three years or so we could be looking at representing the US in the World Games,” says parent-and-coach Krystal Davis.
Landon, 11, and Trent, 13, are currently competing at Level 6 in Acrobatic Gymnastics. On their current timetable, the pair reach Level 7 in Spring 2018, Level 8 by 2019.
They're one of the few men's pairs competing in the sport in Texas. There aren't many more in the Southern region, though the category is already part of the World Games and headed for the Olympics.
In the late-October training camp at a USA Gymnastics Olympic Training site this fall, there were 75 student athletes. The vast majority were girls, Davis said – four boys joined, Kilgore's pair and two more.
Participants attended four different session throughout the training in the Sunday through Wednesday camp at the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville.
Between tumbling, dance and two sets of Acro-skills, one or two students at each session would receive a ribbon, recognizing a positive attitude or athletic ability. Trent brought home an award from three of four sessions, Landon four of four.
“There were several (representatives) from the Olympic committee as well as the head of the USAG-Acro that worked with them,” she added. “They were very impressed with the boys and are encouraging us to compete at Level 7 and move toward the international track in the next few years.”
Emboldened by the feedback, the boys and their parents are taking up the challenge, putting in extra effort in the Kilgore Acro Flyers gym under head coach Ada Alexander.
“We know that Acro will be in the Olympics,” Davis said, looking hopefully to 2018 or 2020. Leaders in the sport are on the lookout for women's trios and men's pairs: “That's why USAG is really impressed and excited about the boys – in the state of Texas, there are fewer than 10 men's pairs. That's all levels.”
In the nine-state region that includes Texas, there are maybe 15 men's pairs, she added. The numbers game favors the local boys.
“You see why we're so excited. Men's pairs are very scarce, here in the US anyway. Worldwide, there's lots of men's acrobatics.”
The boys are eager to compete on the world stage, though they're still getting used to how much of their free time the extra practice is going to take up.
“I'm excited,” Trent said, focused on the duo being a balanced pair: “You've got to trust your partner.”
He's eager to keep improving and to add skills, “To do what most people can't.”
For Landon, the challenge is to “get in the zone” while competing, to both see and not see the judges and the audience. He enjoys the traveling.
“We get to go and compete in different states.”
Before they can hit the road, of course, the craft requires months of practice. The boys average between 12 and 15 hours of practice each week, three hours a day on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. They'll be adding Saturdays soon as they continue incorporating Level 7 skills.
“It's a big commitment, a long-term commitment,” Davis said. On the parents' side, “It's a huge financial commitment – it is an investment between tuition, fees for their choreography, for their uniforms, for their competition leotards, not to mention the fees to compete, traveling there and back.
All that considered, “The two boys, they are excelling so quickly – they're already doing skills that are Level 7 and 8. Not perfectly yet, but they're already diving into them and grasping hold of them. That makes the financial commitment a little bit easier to stomach.”
The duo has a shot, she said, and they have the support to take it.
“If we didn't think the boys could do it, we wouldn't be encouraging them so much. The boys are just really impressing us with their ability to click and progress.”
Further down the road, the various milestones – nationals, the World Games, the Olympics – open numerous doors.
“What they're doing right now would allow them lots of opportunities to walk on to a college campus and try out for their gymnastics team.”