Young and driven: Local gymnast two time state champ

Published 7:00 am Saturday, August 8, 2015

champ: Elise Duhon is a two time state gymnast champion. Photo by Cassandra Favre

champ: Elise Duhon is a two time state gymnast champion.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

For the past two years, 10-year-old Picayune native Elise Duhon has brought home top honors from the Mississippi USA Gymnastics competition.
Elise is the daughter of Cathy and Mark and younger sister of Marcus and Khaleb.
Her career in gymnastics began when she was 18-months old, her mother said.
“We were looking for a sport and she didn’t care for dance and looking for something to increase her hours and chose gymnastics,” Cathy said. “She loves it. She refuses to miss class, arrive late or sleep in if she’s tired.”
This past year, Elise was a level 4 state champion and the year before, she was a level 2 state champion.
Elise trains at the Brook-lin Center in Diamondhead, where she works with her coach, Brook-lin co-owner Terry Dalton. Cynthia Dedeaux is co-owner and coach.
There are ten levels a gymnast can move up to, Dalton said, and a typical gymnast moves up one level per year.
However, Dalton said Elise is very talented and jumped two levels in a year.
“In her case, she went from a level 2 to a level 4,” Dalton said “She is moving at an exceptional rate. She’s very dedicated and rarely misses a practice. She’s one of our more graceful and elegant gymnasts.”
Elise trains five days a week for about four hours per day, Cathy said. When she’s not at the Brook-lin Center, she builds her strength at the gym and practices at home on her beam and other equipment. Elise is also homeschooled due to her schedule.
Elise competes and trains in four categories including vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise, Dalton said.
During a vault exercise, Elise runs down a runway, propels herself off a springboard and flips onto vault table. Elise swings from two bars on the uneven bars. Atop the balance beam, she performs acrobatics including leaping and jumping. The floor exercise features tumbling, combined with dance moves, Dalton said.
Dalton said Elise pays close attention to her technical corrections and not only understands them, but works on them at home.
“She’s pretty far along,” Dalton said, “My goals for her are to advance to an upper level optional program in a year, which would put her in levels 8 through 10. College recruiters begin looking at gymnasts when they are in the eighth grade. Given her pace, she will maybe enter the elite levels and compete in national and international events.”
Cathy said so far, she hasn’t felt nervous while watching her daughter perform.
“It’s because of the hours she puts in and she’s cautious,” Cathy said. “I do a lot of praying when I watch her perform back flips and flyaways.”
Elise said she loves tumbling and performing on the beam.
“Ms. Terry motivates me,” Elise said. “My goal is to get a gymnastics scholarship to college. I like the competitions and it is a little nerve–racking to perform routines. But I was happy when I won. I’ve made a lot of friends here.”
Elsie advises future gymnasts to not get discouraged if at first they are not as good.
“Keep working hard and you will get better,” she said.

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