Olympic hopeful visits to give pointers to other gymnasts

Ms. Sánchez balances a younger gymnast. A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Rulseh Kasper

On a rare break from her rigorous routine, Costa Rican gymnast Mariana Sánchez was able to leave her training grounds in the United States for a brief sojourn in her home country to visit family, friends and young, aspiring gymnasts.

Though her past is highlighted with an ever-growing list of accomplishments and her future aspirations are to be a world-class athlete, Ms. Sánchez’ demeanor was everything but braggadocios as she performed a routine with younger girl gymnasts Tuesday in Parque la Sabana. The 15-year-old even seemed a little nervous in the glaring spotlight before the media cameras.

But all the nerves disappear when she is focused on her gymnastics routine. Ms. Sánchez excels on the bars, although she said she prefers the floor routines, and her talent has brought herself and Costa Rica plenty of status in the gymnastics world with a career marked by top finishes in junior competitions.

Now Ms. Sánchez is focused on competing at the elite level. On a typical day she said she trains roughly eight hours total with school crammed in between workout sessions. Her gym is in Ohio where she lives with the family of another gymnast.

Her training is sponsored in part by Banco Nacional. The bank’s marketing director, Mario Roa, said his organization would like to see her achieve her dreams and help put Costa Rica on the world map.

And one of the primary goals of her strict regimen is just that: an Olympic appearance, either in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro or next year in London. To compete in 2012 before she is 16, Ms. Sánchez needs a special exemption from Olympic officials.

“I’m preparing for London,” she said. “But I always have 2016 in Brazil to fall back on.”

She also is anxiously anticipating the opportunity to represent her country at the 2013 Central American games to be held in San José, where the taste of a home-soil victory would be sweeter than most.

Yet her taste for success has been a long-time coming. Ms. Sánchez has been training stateside for approximately two and a half years, but her desire to compete came long before with her first competition at the age of 4.

However, she claims her progression actually started in the womb and laughed that her mother, who owns a gymnasium and was a gymnast herself, was performing the sport while pregnant with her.

“She is impressive,” said one girl in the group of predominantly elementary school children as Ms. Sánchez performed a solo floor routine complete with flips and spins. And when the group of girls was asked if they wanted to be like Sánchez they all nodded their heads enthusiastically.

Ms. Sánchez offered them this piece of advice.

“Never give up and just follow your dreams, even if it’s not gymnastics.”

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