Olympics inspire young Vermont gymnasts

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 2:37 PM EDT
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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - The Summer Olympics might be over but the spirit of the athletes in the games lives on through younger gymnasts who hope to one day achieve their dreams, as well.

“Whenever I watch the Olympics it just makes me think, ‘Wow, I’m really close to achieving this.’ And every day I’m working closer to becoming like them and that’s what I really want. I want to be just like them,” said Tienya Safko, an eighth-grader.

Tienya Safko and the other girls at Sunrise Gymnastics in Barre are inspired by the high-flying women in Tokyo.

One of the gym’s owners says it helps give the girls a little extra oomph when they come to practice.

“Everyone finds something that they see themselves in all these great gymnasts, so when they come in after watching the Olympics, they are pumped up which is a good thing,” Wendy Safko said.

The Olympics also help get more people in the door who want to participate in the sport, as well.

“It does help quite a lot,” Wendy Safko said. “More people are aware that there is gymnastics. They went online, they searched because their kids saw someone flipping on the TV, they want to do it.”

Jozef and Wendy Safko took over Sunrise Gymnastics two years ago, then shortly after, COVID hit. They took that opportunity to majorly expand their space to give the gymnasts more room to spread out.

They say gymnastics is way more than just a sport.

“A lot of the kids come in here thinking gymnastics is just a skill but we all know, coaches know that it’s the mental growth you need to have the toughness. It all comes together and you learn life skills,” Wendy Safko said.

The young gymnasts say it has given them precious life lessons.

“It’s definitely made me more capable to do things that I didn’t expect I would ever be able to do, definitely some self-discipline type of thing, just made me stronger mentally and physically,” said Emily Nordenson, 13.

“With gymnastics, you always have to work so hard, so when it comes to school just transferring what you do in gymnastics into school is super easy. You just keep working no matter how hard it gets,” Tienya Safko said.

The coaches believe the strength and determination of the Sunrise Gymnastics gymnasts will keep the Olympic spirit burning in them for years to come.

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