Competing, fun drive Chester in gymnastics

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 11, 2000

Today is a special day for Coty Chester. No, it’s not the 10-year-old’s birthday, nor is it the new school year that has the petite, blonde girl excited.

Today is National Gymnastics Day.

While most area children aren’t recognizing the event with wild celebrations, most area children are not Level 4 gymnasts on the verge of achieving Level 5 status.

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&uot;It’s fun,&uot; Chester said of her hobby. &uot;I like competing, I like all the events.&uot;

And all the events apparently like her. According to Chester’s coach, Christy Delany, a gymnast must master every event to move up a level.

&uot;Every little thing is evaluated,&uot; Delany said.&uot;

Chester is expected to reach Level 5 by the end of the year, Delany said. And while she is a long way from Level 10 – the level at which Olympic athletes compete – she knows exactly what she needs to work on to reach the next level.

&uot;I need to practice my kip and work on my floor exercise,&uot; she said. She then helpfully added that a kip is similar to a glide, both manuevers on the uneven bars, only the kip requires more arm strength to lift herself over the bar.

Chester’s agility, strength and vocabulary aren’t her only positive traits.

&uot;She has the memory of an elephant. She can remember everything,&uot; Delany said as Chester helped her list members of the Natchez Gymnastics Team 2000, a group that represents the area in competitions throughout the region.

Chester isn’t the only Level 4 athlete on the team – Stevie Dillenger and Beth Floyd have also achieved the level – but Chester is the closest to reaching Level 5, Delaney said.

Any doubters of Chester’s abilities were likely silenced this summer when she took home the Most Outstanding Gymnast trophy from Lanier’s Gymnastics Summer Camp in Gulfport, held July 16-21.

Chester also attended an earlier gymnastics camp at LSU, where she hopes to one day return as a student-athlete, she said. After a stint in the Olympics, of course.

But Delaney said they will take it one step at a time.

&uot;Level 4 is the first level at which they compete at the state level,&uot; she said. &uot;We’re trying to get her qualified for a state meet.&uot;

Chester said gymnastics is her only recreation and hobby, but she doesn’t mind the two hours a day, two days a week practice time or the time spent travelling and competing.

In fact, she encourages other girls to give the sport a shot. And if, of course, they don’t at first succeed, &uot;Just tell them to keep on trying,&uot; she said.

Now is a good time to introduce people to gymnastics, Delaney said, with the summer Olympics just around the corner.

&uot;The girls are all wound up,&uot; she said.

Chester said she is looking forward to watching her favorite gymnast, U.S. gold medal-winner Dominique Moceanud.

Any aspiring gymnasts can register with the National Gymnastics Association from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. today at the gym on Homochitto Street.

&uot;We’ve had kids as young as 2 come out,&uot; Delaney said. &uot;I think it’s great. It teaches good motor skills and good coordination.&uot;

The Natchez Gymnastics Team 2000 doesn’t have any members quite that young, Delaney said, but it does have two 6-year-olds.

&uot;They all tried out and were hand-picked by the coaches,&uot; she said. &uot;They all work really hard. We’re proud of them.&uot;

In addition to Chester, Dillinger and Floyd, the team includes Rebecca Brown, Ashley Richardson, Nell Johnson, Kristen Cupit, Andrea Browning, Alex Foster, Katie Sanderson, Taylor Welch and Alicia Nunn.