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20 Questions with JO National Qualifier Gwen Cantu (Aspire)

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Our next 20 Questions Athlete is 1st time JO National Qualifier Gwen Cantu of Aspire Gymnastics in Illinois. In 2019 Gwen was a first year Level 10 who qualified to her first JO National Championships finishing 5th in the All-Around to qualify to the Junior B Dream Team. I had the pleasure of spending time with the Junior Bs during their session at JO Nationals and Gwen is literally one of my favorite people! She has one of  the biggest, most fun personalities, she had my cracking up all day long. You could not at all tell that this was her first JO Nationals, she was so comfortable and at ease during the competition. Gwen also was great at making up some of the fun cheers the Junior B girls did during the competition. What first caught my eye though about this talented young athlete was her triple series (BHS Lay Lay) to layout full dismount, which is rocked at Nationals, that I saw from the 2019 Illinois State Meet. Gwen, who will not be graduating High School until 2023, has a few more years left with us here in Region 5 and will definitely be one to watch in the next few years. So, let’s get to know Gwen a little better as she heads into summer training and summer upgrades on her quest for another JO Nationals Dream Team. 

How did you get into Gymnastics? How old were you? When the 2012 Olympics aired, I was watching it and I told my mom “I want to do those flips on the floor”. I enrolled in 20212 and was to join team in 2013, I was 7 years old when I started Rec Classes.

What is your favorite event? I really do not have a favorite, it all depends on the day

Favorite Skill to train/compete? My favorite skill to train and/compete is front tosses n beam and double layout on Bars.

Dream Skill? My dream skill is from double full to a punch front on floor and from layout/front toss on Beam

What is your favorite part of Gymnastics? I love to compete and cheer all my teammates. I love the excitement in the gym when someone lands a new skill.

What college do you plan on attending? I plan on attending any college that allows me to continue my Gymnastics career.

What is your favorite meet to compete at? Why? I love our home meet and our travel meets. I love our home meet because there are a lot of friends and family there to cheer us on. I love our travel meets because we get to travel to different places and meet new girls from other gyms.

Biggest accomplishment in Gymnastics so far? My biggest accomplishment was making it to Level 10 in 6 years and then my dream goal was achieved this year when I qualified to JO Nationals my first year as a Level 10.

What is your favorite Region 5 Insider Feature or Series? I love when Region 5 Insider posts videos of girls doing new skills and the 20 Questions about the Gymnasts.

What is your go to playlist or song before meets? I love listening to songs that can pump me up before meets.

3 Things you could not live without? I could not live without my family, friends, food and Gymnastics

If you could be any animal, what animal would you be and why? I would be a Toucan because that is what Coach Carly nicknamed me and now I have a lot of Toucan decorations. I love that the Toucan is so colorful.

5 Most important or Must have items in your gym bag? In my gym bag I have my grips, tiger paws, prewar, tape, Biofreeze, water bottle and pony tail holders.

Do you have any pre-meet rituals or superstitions? Yes every time I get dropped off my mom tells me to be careful, be safe and most importantly go out and have fun.

What do you like to do outside of Gymnastics? I love to go fishing and swimming. I also love hanging out with my family and friends. 

Most embarrassing meet moment or Gymnastics moment? When I was a Level 4 I tripped running for Vault and felling the pole of the Vault and they though I might have a concussion.

If you were not a Gymnast, what sport would you do or try? I cannot imagine being in a another sport. I did try soccer, but that clearly did not workout. 

Which athletes (any sport) do you respect the most and why? I really do not have one favorite. I respect the dedication and drive all athletes have to reach their goals and dreams.

Something you learned from Gymnastics that you will take with you? Gymnastics has taught me to work hard to achieve your goals and to never give up or stop dreaming.

Most memorable Gymnastics or JO Nationals Moment? My favorite Nationals moment was rooming with the girls and getting to know them better. I also loved when we received all of our amazing gear for Region 5 it was like Christmas.

What is the most valuable piece of advice or wisdom your coach has given you? All my coaches have their own way of offering advice or wisdom. they all help me when I am having a bad day by reminding me to get out of my head and push harder. I have learned when I am not having a great day to not give up and keep working for my goals.

Bonus Question: Tell me something interesting about yourself….. I am deathly afraid of all bugs and snakes. I am allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. I was also a dancer for 8 years. 

 2019 JO Nationals Beam

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