Sunday, February 8, 2009

Cartwheels in.....


Well it has been a little while since i have done a 'Cartwheels In..' post.  But here it is folks!

Like many Central and South American countries, gymnastics appears to be a popular sport in Costa Rica but is practiced only by those who can afford to learn such an expensive sport.  Costa Rican gymnasts have enjoyed a moderate success in the past few years in Central American gymnastics in the last few years, particularly due to a handful of very dedicated and hardworking people who have worked to set up high quality clubs and classes for children.  To give you some idea of the standard Costa Rican gymnastics has now achieved, in the Central American Games last year, the three Costa Rican women partcipating took the 25th, 26th and 27th positions in the all-around competition (out of 39) led by world-class Elsa Garcia of Mexico. The country is also home to the second best junior male gymnast in the geographic region.

Gymnastics is an expensive sport to practice, and like in many countries, there is often a lack of funds and sponsors to truly get gymnastics facilities up and running, an economic fact Wendy Castellanos, coach and founder of the SalsaStars school in Jaco well knows.  Castellanos, who moved from Texas with her husband four years ago, and who has been a coach for 24 years, who bought the original equipment for her gym with her own savings, is getting some very good results from her young gymnasts in competitions.  She believes, however, that more funding and sponsorship would make the sport available to a wider group of children.  Currently, many of her students are kids with American parents, but it is the kids who "are exposed to drug dealers and prostitution on every street corner, constantly" who have "a great need for a sport that's highly structured and highly disciplined and gives them to follow for the next 10 years.  They don't have to kick rocks around the street and smoke pot." She told a reporter.

Wendy, who began her first coaching job at the age of fourteen, first came to Costa Rica on an exchange program for her Spanish Literature degree for a year.  Claiming to have fallen in love with the country, she worked and saved for 12 years and then came to live there with her husband, who dances for a renowned professional Salsa dancing company.  A love of surf, dance and gymnastics meant starting the school and living in Costa Rica was a perfect choice of career for Wendy. Though there are limited amounts of students available in Jaco, where Wendy lives, she hopes to build the program up, working with very young gymnasts to establish a good foundation for their training.  In a student Games competition, while representing the Garabito area, five out of eight of Wendy's gymnasts who participated in the competition won first or second place in their age and skill categories, signaling that the SalsaStars club is in the right track.  Her gymnasts may now have an opportunity to compete in 2010 in the National Games in Alajuela.

Club Carbonell is another very successful club in Costa Rica.  Run by Carlos Carbonall and his wife, Ana who have much collective experience in training athletes, decided they wanted to make gymnastics a bigger and better sport in their country.  They opened Club Carbonell in 2000 and teach gymnastics to anyone who is interested, from toddler-aged children to a weekly elderly person's class.  Club Carbonell made another significant contribution to Costa Rican Gymnastics by setting up the first international gymnastics tournament in the country, an event whch has been carried out each year with greater success and participation each time. Gymnasts from Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Panama, Chile and the US have competed there. Club Carbonell gymnasts also travel to compete in training camps in other Central American countries and the USA.

The gymnastics youth of Costa Rica are improving rapidly with the opening of more great gym schools.  Young gymnast, Mariana Sanchez, has become an honoured member of the Gymstars gym in Costa Rica after participating in the PanAmerican Cup tournament and winning the all-around and medals on every event in a junior competition.  She has participated in competitions in Guatemala and Mexico and has also gotten to participate in a training and coaching camp in Texas with her coaches, where they received expert advise from US coaches and trainers.  Mariana is now the most decorated gymnast in Costa Rica at an international level.  

Male gymnast Tarik Soto is perhaps producing some of the best results Costa Rica has ever seen in gymnastics.  According to his coach, Carlos Carbonell, Tarik's progress since beginning the sport a few years ago has been steady, yet very, very impressive.  He has gained enough difficulty in his routines, including a potential of a floor score higher than 15, to now reign as the second-best gymnast in central America.  This means now, that Tarik will be able to enrol in the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, and really test his mettle against other young gymnasts around the world.  It was difficult to understand the translation of the article i read about him, but i believe it said Tarik had actually only been practicing gymnastics for a few years.  Tarik's favourite event is floor, where he says he finds it the most entertaining and because he loves acrobatics.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for putting up these sorts of posts. They're an interesting read and it looks like a fair bit of work goes into them!