4 from ArtSports would love to go to Russia

       Next stop, Las Vegas. And maybe after that, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Las Vegas-bound ArtSports gymnasts are Sam Chiacchia, being held (from left) by Cameron Heimerdinger, Philip Gifford and Kristin Bowman. The international qualifying event will be Sept. 25-26.
Westside Pioneer photo

       These are the travel plans for four young gymnasts who train at the ArtSports gym in Holland Park.
       The “maybe” is key, though, for Sam Chiacchia, Kristin Bowman, Philip Gifford and Cameron Heimerdinger. The competition in Las Vegas Sept. 25-26 will pit them against the best in their respective events/age groups from across the country - with only three athletes from each getting selected for the World Games in St. Petersburg in November.
       Chiacchia, 13, goes to Las Vegas as the national titlist in ages 13-14 trampoline, having taken first at the USA Gymnastics Trampoline and Tumbling Championships this summer in San Jose, Calif. He has a chance to qualify for Worlds in two events, having also placed in the double-mini trampoline event.
       In an interview last week, the Eagleview Middle School eighth-grader said he will go with the routine he's used successfully for the past year on trampoline, but is working on increasing his “degree of difficulty” for the double-mini, which includes increased height on his jumps. While this means higher risk of a mistake, it also improves his chances of higher scores from judges if he does well.
       Chiacchia started with ArtSports, which he describes as “a great training environment,” about six years ago. He works out there an average of six to eight hours a week, His long-range goal is the Olympics in 2016.
       Asked about his chances at Las Vegas, Chiacchia noted that he'll be facing “some really good competitors, but I'll do my best. I'm really hoping to make it to Russia. It's an international meet, so it would be a huge opportunity to see what lies outside my country.”
       Bowman, 15, of Peyton High School, has been in gymnastics since age 3, and started training at ArtSports five years ago. She is the only one of the gym's Las Vegas foursome who was not a national champion - she took second at San Jose in age 15-16 double mini and third in tumbling - but she made it because the top four in both those events qualified.
       Like Chiacchia, she is trying for a higher degree of difficulty on the double mini. She is also seeking to “upgrade” her tumbling routine, she said. “I just want to make the team and be at the international meet.”
       Gifford, 16, of Palmer Ridge High School, and Heimerdinger, 17, of Woodland Park, have been jumping together for a year (after working in gymnastics for several years before that) in synchronized trampoline. Judges look for skill as well as how closely the two athletes' routines are matched. “Sometimes it's hard,” Gifford said. “You're trying to do your own routine and then you look at your partner.”
       “I try to only look at the beginning,” Heimerdinger said.
       Gifford's other big athletic interest is competitive cheerleading, while Heimerdinger is a diver on his school swim team.
       ArtSports had five other athletes win national titles this year. They are:
  • Chad Bowman, 11, homeschool, age 11-12 trampoline, Level 9.
  • Liz Bird, 17, Rampart High, age 15-and over trampoline, Level 7.
  • Lauren Harclero, 16, Cheyenne Mountain High, age 15-and over trampoline, Level 7 (tied with Bird).
  • Shelby Johnson, 15, Air Academy High, age 15-and over trampoline, Level 8.
  • Dominic McCarron, 9, Trailblazer Elementary, age 9-10 trampoline, Level 8.
           Levels pertain to ability. Ten is the highest number (all those going to Las Vegas are Level 10s); after that is Elite.
           In all, ArtSports athletes had 41 scores in the top 10 in the events at the Nationals. ArtSports owner Mike Zapp took great pleasure in that fact. “Most clubs in the U.S. aren't in the top 10 in their whole lifetimes,” he said. “We're definitely a club that's being mentioned because of that.”

    Westside Pioneer article