National level gymnast tucks-and-tumbles through hardships

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National level gymnast tucks-and-tumbles through hardships

Patrick Mi

Sophomore Melissa Chuang, a seasoned gymnast of nine years has won various national competitions despite facing many obstacles.

A broken tibia, a fractured back, dislocated ribs, sprains, and countless other injuries constantly remind sophomore Melissa Chuang of her devotion to gymnastics.

 

For the past nine years, Chuang has been battling her way through physical ailments to persevere and become a national level gymnast.

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Chuang discovered gymnastics at the age of six while attending a friend’s birthday party. At the time she was involved in four other sports; soccer, ice skating, karate, and swimming, but the immense challenge of gymnastics appealed to her the most. A novice, Chuang began at level one and worked her way up to the second highest, level 10. Gymnasts at level 10 are  allowed to compete in national competitions, while gymnasts at level 11 are eligible for international and Olympic-level competitions.

 

“It’s not that I can’t go to level 11, it’s just that 75% of the kids in level 11 are home schooled because [practice] takes up so much of their time, and I wouldn’t want that,” Chuang said.  She plans to remain in level 10 for the remainder of high school.

 

Chuang attends practice 25-27 hours a week, which consists of  warm ups, stretching, balance beam practice, uneven bars practice, floor practice, vault practice, conditioning, then finally flexibility exercises. Because of the demanding requirements of level 10 gymnastics, Chuang often has to sacrifice time that could be spent on other parts of her life.

 

“There are various times when I can’t go out with friends because I either have gym or I have to do homework because I had gym, and I can’t go on vacation because I have practice,” Chuang said. Her friends  have become understanding of her packed schedule, and adapted to it.  ” I understand how hard it can be to balance [gymnastics and friends] sometimes,” Sophomore Eileen Wu said about her relationship with Chuang.

 

At level five, Chuang won state championships, competing in all four events: balance beam, uneven bars, floor, and vault. She has also been selected for the U.S. National Team three times.

Her gymnastics team has essentially become her second family.

Although Chuang has to make many sacrifices and endure tremendous amounts of pain; ” I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Chuang said.

 

Chuang plans to remain in level 10 during the remainder of her high school years, and  earn a scholarship into college for gymnastics.