Camas High sophomore Kaylee Sugimoto has earned a spot in the USA Gymnastics’ U.S. Junior Olympic National Championships, and will compete in Cincinnati, Ohio, with the country’s top young gymnasts on Saturday, May 12.
The championships feature the top female Level 10 gymnasts in the nation. Level 10, in which Sugimoto, 16, competes, is, according to USA Gymnastics, just below the elite level. Sugimoto qualified for the Junior Olympic team by getting one of the top scores at a recent Region 2 meet in Tacoma, where she competed against athletes from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii.
According to USA Gymnastics, the top four all-around athletes in each age division from the May 12-13 competition will qualify to the 2018 Junior Olympic National Team and be invited to attend a national training camp at the USA Gymnastics National Team Training Center in Huntsville, Texas.
“I’m really excited to represent Region 2, and I’m so thankful to be healthy and to get this opportunity,” said Sugimoto, who has fought through injuries in recent years.
It has been a long road for the Camas High sophomore, who got her first taste of competition as an ice skater when she was only 4 years old, and caught the gymnastics bug while watching sports on television.
“I remember being in kindergarten and watching the 2010 World Championships on TV, and this gymnast from Russia — Alevia Astophana — did a triple twist on the floor, and I was mind-blown,” Sugimoto said. “I immediately started begging my mom to do gymnastics.”
Mom wasn’t so convinced, however.
“At first, I told her ‘no way,'” Sugimoto’s mother, Marnie, said.
Persistence paid off, though. And, soon enough, the young Sugimoto was in tumbling classes at Vancouver Elite Gymnastics Academy (VEGA) in Camas.
Sugimoto started training at VEGA and, within a few years, her budding talent took her to Naydenov Gymnastics in Vancouver where her goal was to make it elite status so she could compete at the televised national level and travel the world.
After a few successes, Sugimoto’s injuries started to add up. She required toe surgery one year, and had an elbow injury the next. Her parents grew concerned about gymnastics’ physical toll on their then just 13-year-old daughter.
Instead of quitting completely, Sugimoto changed gyms and set her sights on college gymnastics.Her parents take turns driving their daughter to the Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland, where she practices five days a week.
“She was on the path to being extremely successful in gymnastics, but she got these injuries, which in the sport they call ‘speed bumps,'” explained her father, Glen Sugimoto. “Each injury would set her back even more. But, I guess that’s kind of how life is, which is a good learning experience for her.”
Proud of Papermaker state champion gymnasts
Kaylee started at VEGA with many of the Camas High gymnasts who won the city’s first state championship in the sport this year.
“I’m so proud of them, I’ve thought about doing high school gymnastics and some of my friends have asked me to join, but it would be pretty tough to fit into my current schedule,” Sugimoto said.
That may be an understatement on her part, considering that she trains year-round, and that her typical day starts at 5:45 a.m.
“I wake up, get ready for school, take the bus and go to class from 7 a.m. (until) 1:10 p.m.,” Sugimoto said. “That’s when I leave school a period early to go to gym in Portland.”
One of her parents takes her to the Multnomah Athletic Club where she trains from 2:30 to 7 p.m. She usually gets home around 8 p.m., and that’s when she, her sister, Mia, and their parents all sit down as a family for dinner. After homework, it’s lights out until the schedule repeats itself the next day.
Sugimoto said performing well at nationals may help her gain entrance into a major university.
The straight-A student wants to major in humanities, specifically in literature, and then go into pre-medical studies.
“I’m looking for a college that will take me where I want to go later in life, not just in gymnastics,” Sugimoto said.