Young gymnast has incredible abilities

Chloe LaCoursiere poses outside Karolyi Ranch, Texas, a renowned training center for the top female gymnasts in the country. (photo courtesy of Poway Gymnastics)

Young gymnast has incredible abilities

The sky is the limit for Chloe LaCoursiere, a 12-year-old Scripps Ranch girl who has demonstrated an incredible knack for gymnastics at a very young age.

LaCoursiere began learning gymnastics at Poway Gymnastics at age 5. By age 6 she entered her first competition, and it was not a small competition.

“Her very first competition was in San Diego at the Town & Country Hotel as a Level 2,” explained Tony Salmeri, Poway Gymnastics owner and head coach. “It was the National State Games of America, not just the state games for California. … It was the National State Games for all of the states and was hosted in San Diego, and she was the national all-around champion for her age division.”

Former Russian national gymnastics champion Valeri Liukin, now a USA national team coach and coordinator, stands next to Chloe LaCoursiere. (photo courtesy of Poway Gymnastics)

LaCoursiere’s success in her very first competition back in 2011 brought amazement as well as the realization that she had some very special abilities.

“Honestly, we were putting her in the meet just so she could get her feet wet and learn how to compete, and she showed us she knew how to compete,” Salmeri said.

LaCoursiere has continued training and competing, and has her sights set high.

“She has a goal to be on the national team,” Salmeri said. “That goal is followed up by wanting to make an Olympic team. She has the potential to go as far as she wants in gymnastics.”

Teresa Barnard, her coach at Poway Gymnastics, described LaCoursiere’s strengths as her flexibility and “her beautiful body lines that she can show.”

LaCoursiere is still learning and she improves constantly, gaining more ability in different aspects of gymnastics.

“I would say, right now, balance beam is probably her strongest event, but in years past, bars has been her strongest event,” Barnard said. “As we go year to year, it differs a little bit according to what she’s required to do.”

Her record of success grows. LaCoursiere has attended camp at the national training center in Karolyi Ranch, Texas, seven times.

“It’s been about two years that she’s been going to the national training center and every trip she’s gone, she’s improved,” Salmeri said. “She’s impressed the national staff and she’s moved up in the ranks while she’s been there. … There’s 60 kids at the camp and those are the top 60 kids in the entire nation.”

At the end of the Nov. 16-19, 2017 session, LaCoursiere was recognized for her physical ability. Out of 60 of the nation’s top young girl gymnasts at the camp, she was awarded a third-place medal in the strength testing.

“She got a medal for how much she’s improved,” Salmeri said. “Three medals were given out and she got one of the three medals out of 60 kids.”

Flexibility and exceptional lines are Chloe LaCoursiere’s strengths. (photo courtesy of Poway Gymnastics)

Perhaps her lineage has something to do with LaCoursiere’s strength and speed. Both her parents were upper-level athletes in college. Her mother, Yvette, was a track and field athlete while attending the University of California, San Diego. Her father, Terry, was on the wrestling team at the University of Arizona.

Beyond her natural ability, LaCoursiere is also extremely dedicated.

“It can’t be stated enough that she’s only 12 years old,” Barnard explained. “She puts in seven hours a day, most days. That’s incredible, the amount of time and effort she puts into this sport.”

While LaCoursiere said she just likes competing, there is a lot more to it. She must maintain a hectic schedule to continue her performance at the level she has attained.

“I go to school on Monday and go to practice after that, and take a break and do homework, and then I go to the gym again at night,” LaCoursiere explained. “On Tuesday I go to gymnastics in the morning and then don’t have anything at night. Wednesday, I have gymnastics in the morning and night. Thursday, I don’t have gymnastics in the morning, but I go at night. On Saturday I just have gymnastics in the afternoon.”

Sunday is her day of rest; no gymnastics practice.

When she has a practice, it’s a very involved practice. First, she spends about a half-hour warming up, then a half-hour of strength and conditioning. She spends between a half-hour to 45 minutes on each piece of equipment or routine: vault, bars, balance beam and floor exercise. She ends the session with 20 minutes of flexibility training: stretching, lifts and bridges.

The basic warmup starts with a 7-minute run. It’s a routine specified by the U.S. National Team; a very specific warmup running across the floor, with varying dance move, kicks and leaps throughout. This warms up the ankles and legs, all before the gymnasts go to their stretches, Barnard explained.

Participating in gymnastics at this level can be grueling and, obviously, takes an enormous amount of commitment. It’s a real journey.

 “I spend more time with Chloe than I do my own children. She is a very special athlete,” Barnard said. “You spend time with the ups and the downs. You go through phases where everything is going your way and then you have times where you have to work through the tough times and just keep moving through. It’s just been an exciting ride so far. It really has. We’ve gotten to go to lots of camps and competitions. We’ve gotten to travel all over the country. It’s just been a lot of fun so far.”

In spite of her success as a young gymnast, LaCoursiere is still a youngster who seems fairly grounded. She is home-schooled under the New Directions program. Her secret power food is reportedly ranch dressing, which she puts on everything. She’s also prone to powering up on a good bean and cheese burrito.

What does she do in her free time?

“I just hang out with my family,” she said.

In addition, she is quick to credit her 9-year-old sister, Kate (also a gymnast), for helping her put everything in perspective on those tough days when things don’t go right.

“My sister really helps me,” LaCoursiere said. “Whenever I come home from a bad practice, she always cheers me up.”

Poway Gymnastics, located at 12850 Brookprinter Place, has been open since December 1993; 24 years. It offers gymnastics for toddlers who can walk, to adult classes. There are Mom and Tot classes, regular preschool classes, and academy classes for any age group. There are non-competitive programs as well as competitive programs.

“Any kind of gymnast you want to be, or you are, there’s a place for you here,” Salmeri said.


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