August 14, 2007

Local gymnasts preparing for national meet

Gymnast Rheagan Courville has two goals as she prepares for the Visa Championships this week in San Jose, Calif.

Finishing in the top 12 will earn her a spot on the USA Gymnastics National team and a probable trip to Japan next month for an international meet. Her second goal is to finish in the top three in all-around in the junior division (age 16 and under). The Visa Championships are USA Gymnastics’ national championships.

A 14-year-old freshman who trains at Elite Gymnastics, Courville said her ultimate goal is competing in the 2012 Summer Games in London.

Courville will be among a group of 30 junior gymnasts who compete on Thursday and Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. The two days will be judged separately and the two scores combined for the overall scoring.

“My goal is to win first all-around and first on the beam,” said Courville, who did just that July 29 at the U.S. Classic in Battle Creek, Mich.

Natasha Kelley, a former Baton Rouge resident who also trained at Elite Gymnastics, will compete in the senior division also Thursday and Saturday.

Courville scored 56.60 to claim the all-around and 15.60 to win the balance beam. She was second in the floor exercise with 14.10. It was Courville’s first Elite International National title. She’s the only Elite International gymnast training in Louisiana.

“The beam is my best event,” Courville said. “My goal is to break 16.00 in scoring.”

Courville is coached by Johnny Moyal and Jessica Connor of Elite Gymnastics.

“On the beam and floor Rheagan is very powerful,” Connor said. “All her leaps, jumps and flips are high and dominant. She also has the flexibility to go with the power.”

Moyal also trained Baton Rouge native Carly Patterson, the 2004 Olympic all-around gold medalist.

“Rheagan is just as good as any one of the girls I’ve trained at Elite,” said Moyal, who competed in three Olympic Games and five World Championships. “Her performance at the U.S. Classic shows her potential.

“She’s an excellent kid. She’s coachable and a hard worker. She’s competitive and capable of winning this meet.”

Courville has recovered from a 2005 injury to her right elbow.

“Her elbow injury kept her from training (on) bars for over a year,” Connor said. “She does a nice routine on the bars now. Going forward, we need to work on more difficult start value of skills for the bars and vault.

“Rheagan has the mental toughness needed for these big meets. We stress body and mind.”

Courville is a home-schooled student. She trains twice a day at Elite Gymnastics during the week.

“The coaches are here every day for me,” Courville said. “They give me corrections on every single skill.

“I like training. I especially like the excitement and adrenaline of competing. This is the biggest meet I’ve been in and I’m ready.”