HUNTERSVILLE – The Chinese Women’s Junior National Gymnastics Team returns to China soon after a month-long visit to the Lake Norman area that included training sessions and cultural experiences with gymnasts and families affiliated with Everest Gymnastics.
The visitors – seven teenage gymnasts accompanied by coaches and chaperones – arrived in Huntersville Dec. 1 and are scheduled to leave Dec. 30. Throughout the month, the team took part in daily training at Everest Gymnastics and an assortment of activities, including group dinners, shopping trips and even a visit with Santa Claus, planned by Everest staff members and the local gym’s elite gymnastics squad.
The visit, coordinated by Everest Gymnastics owners Qi Han and Yiwen Chen, was designed to give members of both teams the chance to work together to polish and perfect skills while developing a knowledge and appreciation for new cultures. During the month, coaches for both teams worked to educate gymnasts about the importance of shared experiences while learning about different techniques and cultural nuances.
“This is a great opportunity for our gymnasts to experience something new and different and be challenged – both through gymnastics training methods and in their day-to-day life,” Han said. “We are excited to share our Chinese culture with our gymnasts, while sharing our American culture with our visitors.”
Han and Chen, husband and wife, grew up in the gymnastics world. At the age of 9, both were selected to compete as gymnasts for China. Eventually, they both ended up training and competing for China’s National Team, which is how they met. After marrying and moving to the United States, they opened Everest Gymnastics in 2004 with the goal of sharing their gymnastics knowledge and passion.
The couple’s connections to China, and frequent interactions with members of the Chinese team at international competitions, helped lay the foundation for this month’s visit.
“We are familiar with them, and see them on a regular basis at events,” Chen said. “That is how this came about. This was the first time we’ve done this, but it has been awesome. It has been a great experience for our girls, and I think it has been a learning opportunity and a valuable cultural experience for the members of the Chinese team.”
Chen said both teams maintained their training regimen during the month.
“This is the off-season for competition, but there is no off-season for training,” she said.
So the teams had the opportunity to see and try the training techniques each team practices. But Chen stressed that she believes the most important aspect of the visit for the members of the Chinese team was exposure to a different culture.
“These girls will be traveling to competitions all over the world,” Chen said. “It is important for them to experience new cultures and get comfortable with international travel.”
Everest Gymnastics families hosted parties for the group and helped organize shopping trips for the visitors.
“Shopping is shopping, and girls 13, 14 and 15 know all about that,” Chen said, “but the mall here still gave them a look at American culture.”
And the visit with Santa was something completely new.
“This was really their first Christmas experience,” she said.