World famous 1992 Barcelona Olympics Gold Metal Gymnast Lu Li of China came to Alaska last week to lead a training clinic at River City Cheer. At only 15 years of age, Li Lu was the first female gymnast to have all of the judges score her with a perfect score of tens on the uneven bars during a competition. Lu made the Chinese national team in late 1991. However, liver illness almost prevented her from competing in the Olympics. In April 1992, just a few months before the Barcelona Games, she made her international debut at the World Championships in Paris, where her highly innovative uneven bars routine caught the attention of the gymnastics world. In 2000, Lu Li moved to California and became a gymnastics coach there. She later moved to Washington State with her husband and son where she currently lives and works as a coach at Emerald City Gymnastics in Redmond.
Lu Li started serious training as a gymnast in China at five years of age, with a regimen that included an average eight to twelve hours a day, six days a week and an additional three hours in the gym on Sunday. "We lived together, trained together. I never went home, and saw my mother only one day a week. On Sunday we would spend three hours in the gym, we did everything together. My schooling was a little like home school here, but mainly we trained for gymnastics. At seven I started to compete in what would be like the Junior Olympics in the U.S. and when I was nine I started competing national and internationally. When I made the national team, I only saw my parents once a year," Lu told the Dispatch in an interview at River City Cheer.
"My gymnastics career started when some friends of my parents told them that they didn't think that I was afraid of anything, was tiny, and full of energy and that I should try gymnastics. So my mom took me to the gymnastics training center province one day, and when the coach saw me she told me I was the one she had been looking for. So I started at an elite training level and learned very quickly and I loved it so from that day I never really went away from the gym until I retired shortly after 1993," she said.
After winning the gold metal in Barcelona Lu's life changed dramatically and she became an international celebrity, "I don't think it changed me as a person but my situation changed and world popularity was nice but I really don't have words to explain. But it was a wonderful experience having all the judges give me a perfect score," she said. Lu says that sports are great for children growing up and especially gymnastics. "It keeps them active and involved and they learn to focus and work hard as they grow up and I think all kids should be involved in gymnastics, and not just to train to compete in the gymnastics for overall fitness and learning of life lessons and self confidence. They should get involved whether they are interested in gymnastics or not because once they are involved they will become interested.
Gymnastics is the best for overall training and the best thing I ever did was to get involved with gymnastics and that's why I continue to coach today everyone who has supported me in gymnastics is why I am who I am today and I am very grateful," said Lu.
Jenniffer Rosin is the owner of River City Cheer, who brought Lu Li to the Peninsula for the gymnastics clinic noted, "It was exciting for all of us from the time we heard that she was coming to Alaska. We jumped right on the chance to bring such a super star gymnast here for our kids, a life changing experience working with a gold medalist," said Rosin.
River City Cheer coach Lacey Clay was also excited to work with Lu Li. "Having her here was very exciting, I grew up in Houston, Texas and grew up with Jonathon Horton, one of the top male gymnasts in the country, so having Lu here was like being at home and around people who knew about gymnastics. Having her here was refreshing, inspirational and renewed my passion for coaching the sport," said Clay. "Lacey is a great coach and I am blessed to have her here at River City Cheer," added Rosin. For more information about classes, events, and opportunities at River City Cheer go to www.rivercitycheer.net or call 260-9990, or stop by for a tour of the gym. River City Cheer is located around the side of the Save-U-More building off K-Beach Rd.
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