Nine-Year-Old Wellington Gymnast Ari Pike Has Her Sights Aimed High By Y.A. Teitelbaum
Ari Pike is a bundle of boundless energy. The lithe, lean 9-year-old is a tumbling machine and has a plethora of trophies to prove it, including a silver medal from her performance in the 2016 AAU Junior Olympics in Houston. While continuing to pursue improvement in her tumbling and trampoline talents, Pike is transitioning into skills needed for high school, college and Olympic competition. Her favorite gymnast used to be U.S. Olympian Gabby Douglas. Now, it’s U.S. Olympian Simone Biles. And that is the level Pike is striving to reach. “She works very hard and always wants to do better and achieve more, so if she stays this focused and determined throughout middle and high school, she can go far,” said Tina Tyska, owner of TNT Gymnastics, where Pike trains almost daily. Pike is currently at level 6 in tumbling and trampoline; the highest level is 10. After that it’s Junior Elite and Elite. Several major 2017 events on the horizon include the state meet and possibly regionals, if she qualifies. Each level has specific requirements for the gymnasts’ skill set. Pike has 90-minute tumbling and trampoline classes at least two days a week, plus one afternoon with a private coach, open gym on Fridays and is a frequent visitor on Saturdays for a workout. She is also working out twice a week with the level 3 gymnastics team so that she can learn the skills needed for the balance beam and uneven bars, and hopefully compete on both teams next season, according to
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Tyska. She even prints out workouts to do at home. “I get to be with all my friends,” Ari said about why she likes gymnastics. “I like to show off. I like flipping a lot. I want to be like Simone Biles and go to the Olympics.” Pike’s start was simple enough, like many children. “My mom started me. She couldn’t take my energy,” said Pike, a third-grader at Binks Forest Elementary School. Even though she spends five or six days at the gym, her energy is still seemingly endless, as she bounced on a new pogo stick about 200 times during an off day. “I wanted to put her in something athletic, to get exercise,” explained her mother, Pamela Pike. “We did soccer before that, and she was pretty good.” “Some of my friends were in gymnastics, so I asked if I could go,” added her daughter, who has sampled cheerleading and horseback riding. “I want to go back to horseback riding. I’m communicating with my mom about going back to horseback riding.” Her competitive temperament has taken over in the gym, and it permeates everything she does, including the Reading Counts program in school. She would even ask her mother to take her to school early to take the quizzes needed for the points.
“The thing with Ari — she’s come a long way,” Pamela Pike said. “She’s intrinsically motivated, like my husband [Michael], so she pushes herself. She’s got a good, natural work ethic. Even at the gym, when others are not as engaged, she’s practicing.” Percy Price is Pike’s main coach for competitive trampoline and tumbling at TNT. “She is successful in the trampoline and tumbling skills because of her will to win and her want for everything to be perfect,” Price said. “Her best attribute is her sense of humor.” When not at gymnastics classes, she practices at home, whether it’s on the trampoline or the balance beam, or she plays in the pool or watches TV. The entire family cheers for the University of Florida Gators. There is also time to go boating and snorkeling with her father, who practices martial arts. Her favorite shows include Worst Cooks in America, Cupcake Wars, The Thundermans, Dance Moms and Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn. Pike also likes pretending to be a teacher, with her stuffed animals as the students. And she horses around with the family’s two dogs, a golden doodle (golden retriever-poodle mix) and a cock-a-poo (cocker spaniel-poodle mix). She also enjoys cooking. “Cupcakes, mostly junk food,” said Ari, who has food allergies, as does her sister, 11-year-old Aliyah, an aspiring singer and actress who attends the Bak Middle School of the Arts. Being allergic to dairy and nuts
March 2017 | ON THE COVER Dressage enthusiast Ann Romney, shown riding Donatello, is profiled in this issue. Photo by Susan J. Stickle | Ent...