Olympic spirit

As girls from Gymnastics Lane worked on vault, John Roethlisberger stopped what he was doing, helped out and encouraged them to constantly work on their skills.

The three-time Olympic gymnast’s action impressed Gymnastics Lane owner and coach Angie Mellencamp.

“There were Level 10 gymnasts there and collegiate gymnasts there working out, and he took the time to come over and break down a front handspring vault,” she said. “That’s fabulous.”

Another time, Mellencamp and fellow Gymnastics Lane coaches Julia Wilde and Liz Copeland had their girls on beam to warm up for a dance when Carly Patterson, another Olympic gymnast, offered to help.

“When the kids were done, it was like, ‘Oh, that wasn’t as much fun as the dancing, but it was really cool that we got warmed up by an Olympian, and she showed us how she did her things,’” Mellencamp said. “You just don’t get that interaction every day.”

Danell Leyva, who is currently training for the 2016 Olympics, later showed off some of his skills, and he also spent time with the kids outside of the gym, including playing soccer and canoeing.

“It was so nice to see because a lot of times, what I’ve seen when I go, you see these Olympians who have a hard time interacting with the young kids. But he just jumped right in,” Wilde said of Leyva. “He was fabulous, and he just made the kids feel like he was just another person.”

One day, the three gymnasts along with fellow Olympic gymnast John Macready gathered with everyone on the spring floor to watch a video of their Olympics routines and answer a variety of questions.

Ever since the three coaches and 12 gymnasts from Gymnastics Lane in Seymour returned from Flip Fest Summer Camp in Crossville, Tennessee, Mellencamp said she has been singing its praises.

“Where would you ever have the opportunity to sit down with four Olympians as a kid in the sport and ask those questions?” Mellencamp said. “Not every gymnast will ever have the opportunity to meet an Olympian because the population of the sport that gets to go to the Olympics is less than 1 percent, and you’re in a place where there’s four right in front of your face. It was an amazing experience.”

This was the third time Mellencamp has taken a group to the camp, which is conducted from May to August and features different Olympians each week.

Roethlisberger and Macready started the camp in 2005 after becoming friends through their training and travels with gymnastics.

Flip Fest is conducted in a large complex in the middle of a wooded area next to Lake Frances that contains more than 20 beams and nearly eight vault runways.

Each day, campers spend around eight hours in the gym working with the Olympians, other gymnasts and collegiate and Olympic coaches.

The rest of each day is spent doing fun activities, including a dance party with a disc jockey, canoeing, tubing and hiking.

“It really is the Disneyland for gymnasts. It is one of the happiest places for a gymnast to go,” Mellencamp said. “You do everything you get to do at camp. But on top of it, they are in an elite facility with an elite coaching staff for eight hours a day.”

As far as working in the gym, Lucy Travis said she learned more about doing front tucks into a pit, while Kayli Carter became comfortable doing a back tuck by herself.

Also, Rylee Barnard and Ivy Brown both said they learned how to be tighter and cleaner on beam, Bella Lucas said she was able to speed up her vault and learn new skills on floor and Adelynn Anderson improved her skills on beam and floor.

Campers also learned a choreographed dance early in the week and practiced it every day before performing it during the closing ceremony. That was Macie Hankins’ favorite aspect of camp.

“We had a lot of people in the audience,” she said. “It helps me have belief in myself.”

The other gymnasts said they liked the activities outside of the gym. For Karrigon Mails, it was mud tug-of-war, while Triniti Wilde liked the scavenger hunt, and Asa Blanton’s favorite was the dance party.

The camp also was a learning experience for the Gymnastics Lane coaches, as they participated in clinics and received tips to take back to their own gym.

Mellencamp said she told the Olympians how much she appreciated the experience.

“I said, ‘These kids look up to you guys so much and follow you guys around. I hope you see that behind the kids are the coaches because we look up to guys just as much as they do,’” she said. “The odds of me getting a road to the Olympics is slim. But to be able to feel like I had a part of something that was Olympic caliber, that’s what the camp gives you. It really gives you that Olympic feel.”

Flip Fest offers a fall adventure camp in November, and Mellencamp said she would like to take girls to that. Through connections she made, Mellencamp said a collegiate coach may come to Seymour to help with a clinic, and it’s possible that some of the Olympians may come by sometime, too.

Then next year, she hopes to take another group to the summer camp.

“I’m very much looking forward to going back next year, hoping to even take more,” Mellencamp said. “I plan on taking kids and staff every year.”

If you go

Gymnastics Lane, 1849 First Ave., Seymour, is hosting a Flippin’ Funtastic Carnival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

The carnival will include six bounce houses, food, shaved ice, old-fashioned carnival games, a dunk tank and more. The gym will be open if you wish to try out your gymnastics skills indoors.

Bracelets are $30 and may be purchased the day of the carnival. Sibling bracelets may be purchased for $10 each.

The event also will feature a silent auction and several vendors.

Proceeds will help send Gymnastics Lane coaches to a national gymnastics training camp in Indianapolis this year.

Information: 812-522-7153

Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.