Last week, young gymnasts had a golden opportunity to learn from Olympic gymnastics gold medalist and world champion Svetlana Boguinskaia during a four-day gymnastics camp at Downriver Gymnastics in Southgate.
She is a three-time Olympic champion and competed in 1988 in Seoul, representing the Soviet Union; in 1992 in Barcelona within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States; and in 1996 in Atlanta, representing Belarus. She is a five-time world champion and eight-time European champion.
Boguinskaia, who was born in Minsk, Belarus, then part of the Soviet Union, is now a US citizen living in Houston with her husband and two children.
She said she started offering her Olympia gymnastics camp in 2000 and was even able to adapt it to continue safely during the peak of the pandemic.
Boguinskaia said there are benefits for children to work with someone who has competed at the highest level of gymnastics.
“We know what hard work is and we know what dedication is,” she said. “We know the right progression in sports and we teach children not only good gymnastics techniques, but also life skills.”
Boguinskaia said they teach young gymnasts to be kind, to help and respect each other, to support each other, to be on time and to practice good sportsmanship.
“It’s so much more than just proper gymnastics,” she said. “These are total, full-fledged life skills.”
Boguinskaia said she also insists her gymnastics camp is a bully-free environment.
“We want them to become caring people who help each other out,” she said. “We no longer need anger in the world.”
Boguinskaia said building participants’ confidence is one of the best things about camp.
“The confidence to do something in front of people, the confidence to not be afraid to make mistakes,” she said. “In life, mistakes are going to happen and you will learn from them.
“The best lesson is to get up and try again, or walk away with a smile on your face, knowing you did your best and today just wasn’t your best day.”
Boguinskaia said she urges them to see each day as a new opportunity to try again.
“So confidence, determination and never giving up is what they bring home,” she said.
Boguinskaia said body image is ingrained in our culture, not just in dance and gymnastics, and it’s human to be self-critical of your image.
“We see smaller, taller, smaller and bigger kids,” she said. “It doesn’t matter – there is acceptance for everyone.”
Boguinskaia said that when she was a girl in gymnastics in the former Soviet Union, only short and tiny gymnastics was trained for competition.
“What I love about the United States is everyone – it doesn’t matter if they’re tall or short, short or tall – everyone can take gym classes – there’s room for everything the world,” she said. “We would like everyone to be in good physical shape, because it helps every child to stay healthy.”
Boguinskaia said she hopes her students will leave the camp having learned skills while having fun and making friends.
“We have kids here from different gyms, and they all become friends,” she said. “I want them to make lifelong friends through gymnastics.”
Boguinskaia said that the children who work the hardest when no one is watching them will be the most successful.
“There are the children who are the quiet workers, who do their homework, and I am very proud of those who are rewarded with winning placements because they work and dedicate themselves,” she said. “They dedicate themselves to sports, knowing they have school, homework, friends – and they sometimes miss birthday parties – just to dedicate themselves to being the best they can be.”
Logan Cook, 20, from Wyandotte, whose mother Kelli Cook owns and operates Downriver Gymnastics, said it was interesting to experience Boguinskaia while assisting as a coach, having been a gymnast in the one of her camps when she was younger.
She said it brought back memories of seeing young gymnasts working with Boguinskaia.
“I love seeing it, because that was me a few years ago,” she said. “It’s a good experience for children, it’s interesting and fun and it makes me happy to see other children experience it. It’s different to be on the other side of the towel, though.
“Being on the other side of the towel” refers to being a servant leader.
Stephanie Barry, Program Director and Office Manager for Downriver Gymnastics, said the camp, which took place June 17-20, was great, and Boguinskaia, who was an incredible gymnast, is also an incredible coach, and Downriver Gymnastics students worked with her. in the past to other places.
“Once the opportunity arose to host one of his camps at our gym, we jumped on it because we knew how amazing it would be,” she said. “The kids have a great time, with lots of individual attention.”
Barry said that Downriver Gymnastics organizes camps in their gymnasium to motivate their students, help them develop their love for gymnastics and give them the opportunity to learn new things.
She said about a quarter of the attendees, ages seven to 14, were from Lansing or the Oakland County area.
Barry said the students not only learned about Boguinskaia’s experiences as an Olympian, they also got a taste of what it was like for her to compete in a different country, with a different way of thinking.
“They have a different mindset, and because she’s been doing this for so many years, the way she’s able to teach them and tell them how to do things is always unique,” she said. declared. “You hear things from a different perspective and you never know what will be effective for each child.”
Barry said it was great to see how enthusiastic the participants were about the sport of gymnastics and learning new things, as well as seeing how hard the young gymnasts put in every day.
“They’re here because they love it, and we’re lucky to be able to offer that to them,” she said.