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Charleston Cup: Gymnastics, The Possible Dream
3/1/2017 3:39:43 PM

Aniya Cannon (second from left) receiving medal at The Charleston Cup
By Beverly Gadson-Birch 

Let me end Black History Month on a high note. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe it was former President John F. Kennedy who breathed new life into physical fitness. He reorganized the President’s Council on Youth Fitness which gave rise to mandatory physical education in high schools.

As a kid some things just stick out in your mind, particularly when you grow up in a small southern town. I began my early education in Charleston but graduated from a mega high school in New Jersey. So, when I enrolled in gymnastics that was something new to me. It was my senior year in high school. I really didn’t have much time to perfect my skills in gymnastics but I did alright for a little southern girl weighing about 110 pounds soaking wet with no prior experience.

Last weekend, I attended the Charleston Cup 28th Anniversary Gymnastic Competition at the North Charleston Convention Center. I was the guest of Aniya Cannon, gymnast, and her mother, Shundra Cannon of Pearland, TX. It was quite an experience watching the girls from across the United States compete. I was in awe of their grace, strength and determination. The girls were relentless in their pursuit of a medal. If they fell, they got right back up and tried again. That’s a real life lesson for those who fail to try or fall down and refuse to get up.
The girls came in all sizes—little ones, big ones, short ones and tall ones. They came in all colors and nationalities working together for the common good of the sport and their team.

I had not seen Aniya performed before and was captivated by her skills. Aniya made even the most difficult competition appear easy as she vaulted gracefully off the beam into the air. She received one second place and three third place medals. That was no small feat considering the number of girls in the competition. Just to give you a little background about Aniya, she is a girl of color. Her mother hails from a small town in Tennessee and her family lives in Pearland, TX, a quiet suburb outside of Houston. Aniya is a straight “A” student. I am sure her mother never imagined that her daughter would be so competitive as a gymnast. It is important to dream big for your children.

As I engrossed myself into the competitions, I wondered how many girls competing were from the tri-county area and how many would become another Gabby Douglas or Simone Biles. A number of African American girls competed in the Charleston Cup—not as many as I would have liked to see—but more than I have seen in past competitions.
Gymnastics is a very competitive sport. It is time consuming and expensive as well.

In talking to Aniya’s mother there are a number of associated costs, i.e., outfits, coaching, travel, hotels, meals, etc. You can easily spend thousands of dollars a year but the returns are well worth the investment. Many of the girls aspiring to become gymnasts may not make it to the Olympics or become another Gabby or Simone but they need to know there is no failure in trying. Gymnastics builds confidence. It allows African American girls to compete in a mostly white female dominated field.

The message that I would like to see African American girls take away from this article is never give up on your dreams. Prepare yourself! Do not allow the past to block your future. Nothing in life comes easy. Hard work and dedication pay off. Practice, practice, practice! Whatever it is you wish to do or become, do the research. Put in the time! If finance is a problem, find a sponsor; but, do not give up on your dreams. A dream deferred is oftentimes a dream not realized. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.
Congratulations Aniya on a job well done!


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