Gymnasts from around the nation tumble into Tampa this week for the YMCA National Championships. More than 2,000 girls and boys will compete, representing just about every state.
The kids range in age from 5 to 17, and while many of them dream of the Olympics, there's more to the sport -- especially for boys.
Former Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan wasn't thinking about his son reaching and competing on a national level when he agreed with his wife to let their son CJ sign up when he was 4.
"I didn't realize how nervous I'd be just to watch him perform,” Hovan said. “Thank my wife for signing him up because I'm not really good at this stuff.”
Performing on a national stage when you’re 7 years old doesn't change the perspective. It's all about one thing for CJ Hovan.
"Fun,” he says.
And the best thing about being at Nationals?
"I get to play with my friends and compete against others,” CJ says.
When you think of gymnastics, usually the Olympics come to mind. But most of the kids competing on this national level are using this as a spring board to other sports.
"He does hockey and this works on his flexibility and his core strength,” Chris Hovan says. “So when he goes out there on the ice he can transition into another competitive sport.”
Curtis Roden is 17 years old and has come all the way from Ohio. This is third trip to the YMCA Nationals, and he looks at the sport as cross-training.
"I do pole-vaulting and diving,” Curtis said. “I probably wouldn't be able to pole-vault if I didn't do gymnastics. Gymnastics transitions to every other sport. Other sports don't always transition well into gymnastics. Diving and gymnastics go really well together. They both teach me a lot. The twisting and the diving. I learned twisting in gymnastics and then brought it to diving."
So even if this is the only time these kids get to compete on this national stage, you might just see them on another.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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