Friday, June 29, 2012
Gymnast is flying high
A great showing in the state championship and getting her name on a banner is all the encouragement 13-year-old Sierra Hodges needs to continue her sports.
Courtesy of Sierra Hodges
Sierra Hodges practices her balance beam routine in her back yard; she placed second for her level in the event at the state championships in Radford.
ANN MARIE LONG | Laker Weekly
Sierra's medals and ribbons cover her bed and the wall of her bedroom at her Rocky Mount home.
When Sierra Hodges gets a look at the banner bearing her name and accomplishment, it makes her proud of her past. The banner hanging in the lobby at the Roanoke Academy of Gymnastics also inspires her to stay with a sport that can be both grueling and dangerous.
"When you win an event at the states, you get a banner with your name on it along with the [name of the] event you won," explained Sierra, 13, of Rocky Mount. "It gives a person self-esteem and the will to keep doing their best in the future."
Sierra did her best at the recent state championships at Radford University. She took top honors in the vault for level-5 gymnasts. The eighth-grader at Benjamin Franklin Middle school also placed second in the balance beam, uneven bars, floor exercise and all-around competition.
The road to distinction in her sport began when Sierra was 6. She started gymnastics at the YMCA in Rocky Mount and stayed there for two years before moving on to the Roanoke Academy of Gymnastics.
"When I was little, I would flip a lot and they signed me up, and I kept it up and went along with it," she said.
Sierra, who, with her two brothers, lives with grandparents Dale and Ginger Williams. Although she said she gets plenty of support from her mother, Tara Himmel, and brothers Elijah and Daniel, it's Ginger Williams who drives Sierra to Roanoke for practice three days a week to work out for four hours at a time. When she's not at the gym, she practices on the balance beam in her backyard.
And although she placed first on the vault at states, it's the floor routine and bars she said she likes the most.
"I like the bars because I like the challenge of literally getting to swing and jump to the next bar while in the air, and I like floor because I like to be able to do all my special jumps and performing them in a routine."
For her efforts, Sierra has a bed full of medals, ribbons and trophies: 45 gold, bronze, and silver metals; 135 ribbons; and seven trophies.
At 5-foot, 6 inches, Sierra said she is tall for a gymnast.
"When you're tall, you tend to be top-heavy on the balance beam and it gets hard to keep your body still," she explained. "On bars, they have to adjust the bars to a higher level so I won't hit the floor or the other bars before transferring to the other bar."
Sierra acknowledges that gymnastics can be hard on the body and dangerous, "... because of all the jumps you have to make and all the pressure that is put on the muscles and bones in our body, especially on the ankles and wrist."
She has sprained her ankle before, causing her to miss the first state championship for which she qualified. Sierra now wears a brace when practicing and competing.
"If I was to get seriously hurt and couldn't continue with gymnastics, that would devastate me," she said.
Like many fledgling gymnasts, Sierra has high aspirations.
"My goal in the future is to make a career of gymnastics," she said, "hoping I can get a scholarship for college and maybe go on to the Olympics."