When Chase Clingman was just 18-months-old, his mother enrolled him in his first gymnastics class, a parent-child course, at APEX Gymnastics. Then, Clingman toddled on mats, learning how to fall safely and tumble lightly on the mats.
Now, Clingman, 11, excels at just about every discipline in men’s gymnastics, getting selected for the Future Stars National Team in November.
Clingman was one of 27 boys to compete in the National Future Stars competition, an elite gymnastics event held at the National Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Co. Athletes must qualify at a regional event before becoming eligible to compete.
“The program is for athletes who show exception or promise in the sport,” said Denise Rowell, a coach at APEX.
And Clingman showed promise. Of the 27 athletes who competed in his age group, Clingman finished 15th, qualifying him for the Future Stars Developmental Team. The team is composed of the top 16 athletes in each division.
“It was really nerve-wracking,” Clingman said. “But it was cool to be where the Olympians train.”
Clingman began training for the contest in July, after qualifying for the event. Clingman had to learn a completely new routine for the competition, including three new disciplines. Normal events are the high bar, rings, pommel horse, parallel bars, floor and vault. Clingman had to add in extra routines to demonstrate proficiency on trampoline and in strength and flexibility.
“I learned a lot, a lot of skills,” Clingman said. “A lot of skills I messed up on they helped fix.”
With the national contest completed, the sixth-grader at Simpson Middle School is focusing about the upcoming state and regional season, something he tends to do very well in.
“When he goes to the meets, he always wins,” said Vladimir Shamenko, Clingman’s coach. Shamenko has an extensive gymnastics background. He won a bronze medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics with the Ukrainian National Team.
Clingman practices 16 to 20 hours a week at APEX in Leesburg and is one of 24 boys on the APEX boys team. He is at level seven, having been promoted one level every year or so since he began competing at age seven. The highest level is 10.
At his first regular season contest, the Tim Weaver Invitational in Hanover, Pa., Clingman finished fifth all-around, placing first in the ring event and second in the floor exercise.
While Shamenko and Clingman are focusing on the season at hand, Shamenko notes they do plan on entering Clingman in the national contest again next year. In 2013, Shamenko says, they are shooting for a top eight finish, making Clingman eligible for the Future Stars week-long camp.
If Clingman wants it, Shamenko sees a bright future for the young gymnast.
“He’s strong and flexible,” Shamenko. “What they’re doing at this age now, especially this one… He’s tough.”
-All photos by Beverly Denny
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