By Anna Rose Johnson
In this new series, we’re highlighting up-and-coming U.S. gymnastics stars that are looking ahead to international assignments, collegiate success, and Olympic glory. Let’s take a look at three remarkable juniors who are catching our attention!
Taralyn Nguyen is a talented 13-year-old from Technique Gymnastics in Rancho Cordova, California. She’s represented Technique for nine years and is now competing in her first year as a Level 10. Taralyn has already secured a score of 9.95, for her double-twisting yurchenko vault. “My goals for this year are to qualify to J.O. Nationals and to keep upgrading my skills,” says Taralyn. “My long-term goals are to do well in both school and gymnastics. I hope to continue gymnastics in college.” Already qualified for the prestigious Western Championships, Taralyn is well on her way to achieving her goals.
She’s been very inspired by elite gymnasts who went on to enjoy successful NCAA careers, such as Madison Kocian, Peng-Peng Lee, and Elizabeth Price. “I’m impressed by how they were able to be elite gymnasts while also maintaining good grades,” Taralyn comments. “I also look up to my former teammate, Ashley Tai. Four years ago, she came back from an injury and continued to do well in Level 10. She is now part of the Stanford Women’s Gymnastics Team.”
While Taralyn is currently focusing on Level 10, she also appreciates the different opportunities that are available in the elite system. “I like how in elite gymnastics, there is more incentive to perform difficult skills because the start value can be much higher,” she tells us. “In J.O, the start value for a yurchenko full is one tenth less than the start value of a yurchenko double full. In elite, the start value is an eight-tenth difference!”
Taralyn, who is coached by Lisa Poarch, Rick Newman, and Tara Gilmore, clearly has lots of potential in her sport. She’s got a strong swing on bars, plenty of power on vault, and a confident poise on beam. “I am very excited to be part of the next generation of Team USA,” she says. “I think it would be a great experience to represent the best country in the world.”
Ashley Lane is definitely a name you’ll want to remember. This 14-year-old from Metroplex has been doing gymnastics since the age of three, and she’s already been competing as a Level 10 for two years now. “I have been at Metroplex for almost a year and I have loved every second of it,” says Ashley. Her love of sports is a Lane family tradition—her twin sister is a Level 9 rhythmic gymnast and her older brother plays hockey.
Ashley, who has the elegance of a ballerina on floor exercise, notes that some of her biggest accomplishments in gymnastics have been acquiring a couple of key skills: a Maloney-half on bars and a triple full on floor. “I also feel one of my biggest accomplishments is how much I have grown both mentally and physically as a gymnast,” she adds. “I’m excited to see how much more I can improve and what kind of upgraded skills are in my future!”
This promising 8th-grader has her sights set on progressing as far as she can in gymnastics. “My short-term goals are to make it to 2017 J.O. Nationals and to pass elite testing,” says Ashley. “My long-term goals are to receive a full-ride college scholarship and, if elite goes well, to make the national team.” Ashley, who likes watching Maggie Nichols and Simone Biles, has been inspired by the dominating victories of the last two U.S. Olympic teams. “Watching the success of the teams like the Fierce Five and Final Five has definitely motivated me to improve and push for the elite level,” she explains. “Watching collegiate and elite gymnasts compete their amazing skills motivates me to achieve those skills and be where they are one day.”
Ashley says that she is “excited to go through the process” of testing elite. “What appeals to me in the elite level is the challenge of pushing to learn harder skills and to see how much I can grow as a gymnast,” she says. “I am looking forward to experiencing competing on podium and traveling all over the county and potentially the world. I am also excited to compete with my elite teammates and go to the new and exciting places with them. It would be amazing to be a part of such a strong, remarkable team.”
Gabrielle Gallentine is the latest star to come from Everest Gymnastics in North Carolina. She began gymnastics at the age of five after watching Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson compete at the 2008 Olympics. “After that I got motivated and inspired to start gymnastics,” she says. Now 14, Gabrielle has three years of Level 10 experience to her name and just qualified junior elite earlier this month. Gymnastics also runs in her family: her mom is a former elite from Parkettes.
Coached by Qi Han and Yiwen Chen, Gabrielle has elegant lines and a powerful full-twisting double layout dismount on bars and a dynamic floor routine. “I’m working on smiling in my routines more often, showing my presentation,” she notes. “I’ve been trying to give it more sass, but I still have a lot of work to do.”
Gabrielle’s gym, Everest, is also the home of 2016 Olympic alternate Ashton Locklear and 2015 Pan Ams gold medalist Emily Schild. “I look up a lot to Ashton and Emily,” Gabrielle tells us. “[They] have motivated me a lot at practice to be my best. They’ve been good role models; helping me with skills and showing me how things are done. They’ve mentored me a lot through all this and they’ve been helping me through my practices. [As an elite,] you have to work really hard and try to be consistent…and just have a good mental mindset, too.”
Achieving junior elite status has means that Gabrielle is one large step closer to reaching her goals, which include international assignments, making the national team, and getting a college scholarship. “Qualifying junior elite makes me more motivated,” she says.
Gabrielle is also considering Tokyo 2020. “Once I do some international assignments then I’ll think about 2020, but I’m just trying to take it step by step at first,” she notes. “I’m finishing my Level 10 season and then going to Secret Classic. Then after [that], I’m going to try qualifying to P&Gs and start going maybe to the ranch.”
She recently competed at the 2017 Nastia Liukin Cup in Newark, where she placed fourth in the junior division. “It was a great experience,” says Gabrielle. “Before the meet, [Nastia] talked to us and she really inspired me and got me motivated. I took in what she said before the meet and it really helped. I tried to have fun out there and smile. I always take it so seriously, so I was just trying to have fun and smile.” The Nastia Cup was Gabrielle’s first competition on a podium, which she said was “so cool.” It’s safe to say that there will be many more podium meets in Gabrielle’s bright future!
Image © Lloyd Smith
Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com