Do you want to turn your passion for sports into a career? Let's start with the basics first and learn about the origins of gymnastics! Our guest on this episode is an elite junior gymnast who has her heart set on competing in the Olympics. Join us as our host Emily Calandrelli meets Hezly Rivera to find out how she balances school and her professional sports career.
Discover fun activities and songs that will teach your child all about collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication in the Lingokids app! 💙
Speaker: When I grow up I want to be an athlete.
Speaker: What does being an athlete mean to you?
Speaker: Building a strong body to do amazing things. Athletes compete to win big trophies.
When I grow up.
Want to be a pilot, with your uniform white,
always flying high up in the sky.
When I grow up.
Want to be a firefighter, putting out flames.
Or maybe a police officer keeping people safe.
It's so fun to learn what you can be.
When I grow up.
Want to be an artist, that paints portraits.
Want to be a scientist that does experiments.
Oh, so many people you will meet.
Emily: Hi, and welcome to Growin' Up with Emily, a Lingokids podcast helping amazing kids to grow up and be even more amazing, and Emily, it's me. As a kid, I was always asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I wanted to be so many things. Does that sound familiar? Then I'm glad you're listening because you are going to find out what it takes to be anything you want. Are you ready to make sport your superpower?
Emily: Last episode during halftime, we punted questions to C.J. Sapong, a professional soccer player, who volunteered to be coach for the day. He explained that coaching is about improving players' skills while also helping them work as a team. Today, we're leaping into a job full of twists and turns. If you enjoy being active and have dreamed of being an athlete, then I know you'll flip for this episode. Today we're going to meet a real athlete with a spring in her step, a gymnast. This talented young lady is giving a halftime performance at the school's soccer game. Before we meet her, let's roll back the clock to see where gymnastics got its start.
Emily: Did you know gymnastics began in ancient Greece as a way to train young men for war?
Speaker: Oh, that sounds like a martial arts, like Kung Fu and karate.
Emily: Right, but here's the crazy part. The Greek word gymnos means naked, so you can imagine.
Emily: Yes, ancient Greeks were obsessed with myths, gods, and warriors with buff bodies. Have you ever seen statues of art from ancient Greece?
Speaker: Right, they are all naked.
Emily: Displaying model male physiques showed the world they were powerful.
Speaker: Well, I'd rather wear gym shorts and do a cartwheel for fun.
Emily: Totally. Later in the 1800s, the equipment used for gymnastics was inspired by national pride. A German soldier, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn believed people who could jump, roll and kick together, stick together, so he created the parallel bars, high bars, balance beam, and the pommel horse. You could say he raised the bar of gymnastics.
Speaker: I watch gymnastics during the Summer Olympic Games.
Emily: So do I. It's a real crowd pleaser. Artistic gymnastics was featured at the very first Olympic Games in 1896, with male athletes. Women started competing in 1928.
Emily: Oh, the performance is about to begin.
Speaker: There's the gymnast. She's waving to the crowd. Hello.
Emily: I wonder what she'll do first, the balance beam, uneven bars, or the vaults, or maybe the floor.
Speaker: She's at the end of that runway, staring at the vault. What focus, deep breath.
Speaker: She's like a bullet train.
Emily: She needs a big burst of energy to hit the vault with her hands and spring herself into the air.
Speaker: Whoa, a double flip with a twist. She nailed it. Perfect landing. Yes.
Emily: The vault is much safer these days. It was redesigned in 2001 with a larger surface and a rounded front to prevent injuries. I used to be afraid of the vault.
Speaker: You did?
Emily: Yes, but I got over it. Get it? Over it, vault? [chuckles]
Speaker: She's on the balance beam now.
Emily: Here she goes. The splits and next, a handstand, and now she's balancing on one leg with her other leg up by her head, and nice leap. She landed back on the beam.
Speaker: Here comes the dismount. It's a backflip with a twist.
Speaker: I've never seen a guy gymnast on the balance beam.
Emily: Your right. Male gymnasts use the rings and the pommel horse, which tend to require more upper body strength.
Speaker: Oh, that makes sense.
Emily: Here's her chance to show upper body strength, the uneven bars.
Speaker: That looks really hard.
Emily: Whoa, she's flying through the air.
Speaker: Will she catch the lower bar or lose her grip?
Speaker: Wow, she did it. She's back in the air for the final flip.
Emily: She landed with both feet together, sign of a pro.
Speaker: Oh, she's walking over to the floor. My favorite. I love how it mixes dance, gymnastics, and drama.
Emily: Would you say you're head over heels? [chuckles]
Speaker: Did you see her do that double flip? She is so strong. I wonder if she has to practice every single day.
Emily: I bet she has a flexible schedule. Get it? Flexible. I know, I'm bending over backwards to be funny.
Emily: That was quite a halftime performance. Here's our chance to meet the gymnast. See that poster of her hanging on the wall? Can you see it?
Speaker: It says her name is Hezly Rivera. She's taking a break.
Emily: Maybe we can get her autograph on a poster. Are you ready to meet a real gymnast?
Emily: Hi there, Hezly. I'm with Lingokids and we want to find out what it takes to be a gymnast. Can we ask you some questions?
Hezly: Yes, of course.
Emily: Hezly, what are three things all gymnasts need to be a champion?
Hezly: I think that you definitely need hard work, dedication, and the mental strength, to be a champion. It's hard sometimes, but you just have to push through the hard days.
Emily: Very interesting, Hezly. Maybe you can give us some tips at the end on how our listeners can start learning these skills. We also received some excellent questions from our Lingokids listeners.
Speaker: Hezly, is it true you started doing gymnastics was you were five years old?
Hezly: Yes, it is true. I did start doing gymnastics when I was five. It all started after I went to a birthday party in a gym, and the coaches told my parents that they should put me in gymnastics because I had a lot of good potential.
Speaker: Hezly, do your parents get to come to your performances?
Hezly: Yes, they do, and they watch all of them. [chuckles]
Speaker: How old were you when you had your first performance?
Hezly: I was six years old when I had my first performance, and I was a level 3. I remember I got second place all around.
Speaker: How did it feel?
Hezly: Oh, it feels great. It feels really good because all the hard work finally pays off.
Speaker: What is your favorite event?
Hezly: My favorite event is bars because it feels like I'm flying around doing all of my stuff. I like to go from the low bar to the high bar because it feels like I'm flying to the high bar.
Speaker: Hezly, what do you like best about being a gymnast?
Hezly: I just love to flip around all the time constantly, and I love to be with my teammates and my friends and to spend that time together because we're all doing the same thing.
Speaker: I love what you're wearing. Do you get to design your own leotards?
Hezly: I have not gotten the chance to design my own leo yet, or leotard. I definitely look forward to it in the future because I really want to design my own leo. Actually, my coach designs it for me. He designs all of our leos, and they're really nice.
Emily: Hezly, you are a star athlete and a student. Is it easy for you to find the balance?
Hezly: I do have a balance, but it was difficult, especially at first. I have to go to the gym, do school in between, practice, and then go back to the gym. Then if I didn't finish anything I would have to come home and do it as homework. It's definitely difficult, but I do have the balance.
Speaker: I wonder what it's like to perform in front of the crowd and jury.
Hezly: It is awesome because you just get to show all of your new skills, everything that you've been working on. It's just so much fun especially when you hit your routine and you know that you did it so well and you can get a great score. It's so amazing.
Speaker: Hezly, I've seen Simone Biles on TV. She's amazing. Have you met her?
Hezly: Yes, I have met Simone. She is so great. She is so good. She just came into our gym one time and she was training before the 2016 Olympics, and I was so in shock. She was just standing on the beam and she looked at me and she was smiling and I looked at her back and it was just awesome.
Speaker: Did you learn anything from her?
Hezly: I did learn to be more confident in myself because she just looked so confident in everything that she does. I just learned to be more confident and to trust myself.
Speaker: What a cool story. Thank you Hezly.
Emily: Thanks for sharing with us.
Emily: Hezly, what can kids do now while they're still growing up to become a gymnast?
Hezly: Kids can definitely do whatever they put their minds to. If you love your sport, just go after it, any sport. If you're just flipping around your house and you don't have anywhere to go, your parents might see that and they probably will put you in gymnastic. If you love it, keep going because it's definitely going to be hard, but you just have to push through and do what you love.
Speaker: Any stretches I can learn now?
Hezly: You can do some arm stretches where you just go like that. Then you could swing your arms around to get movement in your shoulders. Those are probably the basic stretches that kids do on their own sometimes.
Emily: Let's all stretch together. Ready?
Hezly: We're going to stretch the back of our legs and our quads and the front of our legs. When you stretch the back of your legs, which are your hamstrings, you can stand up straight and then try to touch your toes as far down as you can go.
Speaker: I can do this. All the way to the floor.
Speaker: Can I try something else?
Hezly: You can do butterfly stretch where you're sitting on the ground and your knees go down and you can push them down.
Speaker: Look, my knees are almost touching the floor.
Hezly: Great job everyone.
Emily: Hezly, thanks so much for this stellar performance and for answering your questions.
Speakers: And for the signed posters.
Emily: We hope you have enjoyed this episode of the Growin Up podcast. Even if you never plan to be a gymnast, flexibility, balance, and strength are great for your health. Can you do these flips? What about a headstand? Tune in next time when we meet a real school principal.
Speaker: To have a full interactive learning adventure, check out our Lingokids app with tons of games and activities for endless fun.
It's so fun to learn what you can be
Come and join us, come, everyone,
So we can learn while having lots of fun
Because it's so fun to learn what you can be.
It's so fun to learn what you can be
[00:15:08] [END OF AUDIO]