Go Pan American or Go Home: Bay Area Teen Soars in International Gymnastics Competition

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Head Over Heels elite athlete and Mexican National Champion Frida Esparza competes at the Pan American Championships in Lima, Peru.

The bronze medal Mexican team poses at the Pan American Championships.

"We helped to calm each other down and told each other...we just had to do our best."

In September, Bay Area teen Frida Esparza traveled to Lima, Peru, to participate in the 2018 Pan American Gymnastics Championships. This team-oriented event involved competitions in trampoline, artistic gymnastics, and rhythmic gymnastics, and is the qualifying event for the 2019 Pan American Games, a qualifying event for the 2020 Olympics. Sixteen different countries from North, South, and Central America sent athletes to this year’s competition. Each year, the Pan American Championships is either a team event or an individual event. This year was a team year, while 2019 will be geared towards individual awards. The top 8 countries were invited to return to Peru for the Olympic qualifiers next year. The US won first place in the championships overall, followed by number two Brazil and number three Mexico. This secured Mexico’s placement in the 2019 championships. The Mexican team was led by Ms. Esparza, who is the current Mexico National Gymnastics champion.

The Pan American Championships competition was Frida’s international debut. Ms. Esparza says that some of the most striking differences for her between the Mexican Championships a few months ago and the Pan American Championships were that in Peru, “You see people from a bunch of different countries, not just from one, and you watch interesting new skills that you haven’t seen before.”

Frida did an outstanding job in the two days that she competed All-Around. Her consistency and excellence in her eight routines made her the top scorer for the Mexican team. On day one of the championships, the officials gave out the All-Around awards, and Frida placed 8th all-around. Her confidence grew, and on day two, she was elected to compete in all four events again, improving her individual performance by over 2 points. Although All-Around awards were not given for the day two performance, she was the second-highest scorer that day. Her consistency and improvement caught the attention of many gymnastics fans.

When asked about how she felt throughout her international debut, Frida explained, “When I got to the championships I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be, until the day that I walked into the competition gym. It was fun being with the other girls on the Mexico team, though, and we helped to calm each other down and told each other it didn’t matter how we placed overall--we just had to do our best.” This team unity is something that both the athletes and coaches hope will carry them to success at this month’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

Back in August, Ms. Esparza attended a training camp in Mexico with the four other girls on her team who made it to the Pan American Championships. Most of the members of the Pan American team will be competing with each other at the World Championships. The Pan American Championships offered a good opportunity for the athletes to practice training and competing with each other in pressure situations.

Fortunately, Frida continues to work with her regular coach throughout the championships. In Peru, Head Over Heels elite coach Katreece Stone rose to the challenge of being the head coach for the Mexican team. “I’m learning Spanish,” she says with a smile. As head team coach, Coach Stone spent intense time analyzing the best possible order for athletes’ performances, and the optimal times for scheduling workouts and team meetings.

Ms. Esparza is now preparing for the upcoming World Championships in Qatar. Her goal is to score in the ranks of the top 20 female gymnasts. We of the HOH community wish her all the best and can’t wait to see what’s in store for her in Qatar!

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Lydia Christoph-Sanchez

Katreece Stone
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