This past summer, the USA women's gymnastics team captivated the world's attention with an all-around gold medal at the London Olympic Games. Nearly 5,000 miles away, two young girls — one in Edmond, the other in Tulsa — were glued to the television, watching the magic unfold.
It might seem like a crazy thought for an elementary student to have, but if Gabby, Jordyn, McKayla, Aly and Kyla could do it, why not them?
The thought? That could be me one day.
On Sunday, Cadara D'Andrea and Shayla Blair stood on a podium at the Cox Convention Center on the final day of the 2013 Nadia Comaneci Invitational, a three-day gymnastics competition that draws in the best young gymnasts from across the state. For both girls, the simple reason for their attendance was the love of sport. The deeper reason was their inspiration: the gold medalists.
D'Andrea competed in the 10-11-year-old division for Oklahoma Gold Gymnastics of Edmond. She placed second in the all-around, second on the floor, and first on the balance beam.
“It's a sport that not everyone can do,” D'Andrea said. “It's challenging.”
Blair was in the 12-13-year-old division as part of Ultimate Gymnastics and Cheer of Tulsa. She was awarded third-place on the balance beam, and a handful of ribbons for the other events in which she competed.
Both were impacted by Olympic gymnasts in different ways.
Blair started gymnastics when she was 18-months-old. But her passion for the sport didn't truly blossom until she witnessed U.S. gymnast Carly Patterson win the all-around gold at the 2004 Athens Games. Young Blair was amazed by what she saw.
“I just can't believe they can do all that,” Blair said.
D'Andrea felt that bewilderment watching McKayla Maroney nail a near-perfect vault at the London Olympic Games. Proof of that sentiment can be found in her family history.
“It's amazing,” Lisa D'Andrea said. “(Cadara) is an inspiration to me. This is all her doing. She had the desire to do it. She's the first one in our family to be a gymnast. It's amazing to watch.”
Even though it arrives just once every four years, the impact that Olympic gymnastics have on both girls is something their mother's don't take for granted.
“Seeing Gabby Douglas professing her faith and seeing how she got to where she did was encouraging to me,” Trish Blair said. “It made her a good role model for my daughter because (Douglas) knew she couldn't do it on her own.”
The chance of these girls making it to the Olympics one day is slim. The real benefits of competing at this level — confidence, organization, fitness — will last a lifetime. They know that. Still, the dream won't go away soon. But what will it take to get there?
Blair smiled: “Hard work.”
Trish Blair laughed: “Hard work and a college scholarship.”