As we approach the 2017 P&G Championships this weekend in Anaheim, California we are going to focus on one of our Region 5 Elite’s who will be coming at this years championships. Leah Clapper of Gym America, who is a 2nd year elite, will be competing in the senior division at her first P&G Championships. Leah has a genuine love for the sport of gymnastics. Leah’s Gym America coaches, Claudia & Brian, have told me on numerous occasions how she just loves being in the gym, always smiling, always laughing, such a wonderful teammate and so easy to coach. It is so refreshing and energizing to be in the gym with Leah, her energy is contagious. Leah, who won the 2016 Yahtzee Award for “Most Entertaining Routine” is definitely a performer! I absolutely love watching her floor routines, the energy and excitement she portrays during the routine is captivating! I cannot wait to see her this weekend up on the podium in Anaheim. As Leah prepares for her final training leading up to the weekend, lets get to know this amazing Senior Elite from Michigan.
How did you get into gymnastics? How old were you? I have been doing gymnastics for as long as I can remember. I started parent-and-tot classes when I was about 1 ½ years old. I was a very energetic toddler!
What is your favorite event? My favorite event to compete is definitely floor! I love to show off my routine and personality. Although, my favorite event to train changes on a day-to-day basis… maybe bars/beam?
What is your favorite part of gymnastics? I honestly just love flipping and getting to experience the feeling of (nearly) flying through the air. The best part of gymnastics, however, is the sense of accomplishment the sport brings when you learn a new skill, nail a routine at a competition, or reach a big goal, in my opinion.
What College will you be attending? Why did you choose this college? I will be attending University of Florida. When I visited the campus, I absolutely loved it! The academics and gymnastics alike seem to be a great fit for me. Go Gators!
What is your favorite meet to compete at? There are several I love! J.O. Nationals is definitely towards the top of the list. The meet is such a blast, especially because of the enormous amount of team spirit that arises when you are fighting for a win with other gymnasts from Region 5! I also love competing at the U.S. Classic because of the podium, big arena, and thousands of fans watching!
Biggest accomplishment in gymnastics so far? My biggest accomplishment in gymnastics so far is qualifying to P&G Championships! It has been a goal of mine for a while, and I was so excited when I made it!
When did you decide you wanted to become an elite gymnast? What is a typical day for you? Some of my teammates and I went to watch the Secret U.S. Classic in Chicago a few years ago. Then and there, I was super motivated and decided I wanted to compete in that meet some day! Later that season, I talked to my coach about wanting to try elite and upped my training a bit. Now, a typical day during the school year consists of waking up around 7:00am, eating breakfast, then heading to school. I only take 4 hours of classes (instead of 5) so I leave school around 1:30, go home for a quick snack, and head to practice from 2:00-8:00. During the summer, my schedule is a bit different since practice times are switched up. So, I will spare everybody from reading my ultra-complicated week.
Favorite skill to train and/or compete My favorite combination to do is probably a Shaposh pak. It flows so well and is simply fun!
Dream skill? I have a few. My dream vault to compete is a Yurchenko double full, and my other dream skills are a ray on bars, standing full on beam, and double-double on floor.
Who do you most admire in the sport of gymnastics? I don’t really admire anyone specific, but I have always been inspired by Olympians, college gymnasts, and my older teammates.
What is your all-time favorite leotard? Do you still have your very first leo? It seems like every time I get a new leotard it becomes my favorite (until the excitement dulls down and I get a new one)! I’m not exactly sure what was my very first leo, but I do have some really old ones (jungle pattern with shorts, red velvet with shorts, etc.).
What are your goals in gymnastics? What keeps you motivated every day in the gym? My main goal for this season is to compete well at P&G Championships, and my next big goal is to make the national team. Long term, I hope to have a successful college career! As for motivation, I’m pretty much motivated by the idea of improving on a daily basis. I enjoy going to the gym every day, and my teammates, coaches, and sister always push me to do my best!What is your go to playlist or song to play before a meet? I don’t really have a go to playlist, but like to listen to fast/pump-up music before a meet. If I’m a bit nervous or stressed about a competition, I like to listen to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” to calm myself down.
Do you have any pre-meet rituals or superstitions? Eh… not any that really stand out, but I always feel like I need to make my last routine on each event at practice the day before a meet. Also, I’m a bit superstitious about lucky pennies, so I always used to look for coins on the ground before a meet. Now, my mom will sometimes give me one for good luck!
Most embarrassing gym or meet moment? My most embarrassing meet moment was probably when I balked on my Yurchenko at level 9 Eastern Nationals. I landed flat on my back, got up laughing, and forgot to salute!
What do you like to do outside of Gymnastics? I like to spend time with my family/friends outside of the gym. I’m also a big fan of board games and bike rides!
If you weren’t a gymnast what sport do you think you would try? I would probably try trampoline, dance, diving, or pole vaulting.
What athletes (any sport) do you admire and why? I don’t really have any specific idols, but I definitely admire any athlete who is hardworking and determined to reach their goals.
***Tell me something interesting or special about yourself…I enjoy making videos, both for school assignments and for fun!
Check out Leah competing in her favorite event, the Floor Exercise, at the 2017 U.S Classic
video from USA Gymnastics