First Posted: 10/1/2014
ROCKINGHAM — Ashton Locklear wasn’t shy about setting her sights on something big despite her young age.
But when you are 2, why not shoot for the stars?
Flash forward 14 years later and Locklear is on the verge of making her dream a reality — competing in the Olympics for the U.S. in gymnastics.
“My first memory of gymnastics was watching the 2000 Olympics on TV,” Locklear said. “I told my mom I wanted to go to the Olympics when I was older.”
Locklear finished first in the uneven bars as the U.S. National Championships in Pittsburgh in August. After the event, she was named to the U.S. Senior National Team.
In addition, she represented the U.S. in the Pan-Am Senior Championships, a qualifying event for next year’s Pan-American Games in Toronto. Locklear earned gold in the uneven bars as well as in the team competition.
Two weeks following the Pan-Am Senior Championships, Locklear received more good news, she was one of seven named to represent the U.S. at this month’s World Championships in Nanning, China.
The team will begin qualifying at 6 a.m. Eastern time Sunday, and it will be broadcast on USAGymWorlds.com.
The world championships will air on Universal Sports Network from 8 to 10 p.m. Oct. 7 through 12. NBC will show the finals at 2 p.m. Oct. 11 and at 3 p.m. on Oct. 12.
Just another stepping stone toward her Olympic dream for the 16-year-old from Hamlet.
“I think growing up in the small town of Hamlet helped ignite my dreams of competing for Team USA,” Locklear said.
She first became interested in the sport while watching her older sister, Angelia, at Physical Awareness and Gymnastics. Soon, Locklear started winning titles under the direction of Terry Barrett.
“My first championship was a state trampoline and tumbling championship at age 5,” Locklear said.
It didn’t take long for her parents to realize she was going to be something special in gymnastics.
“I think we knew very early on that she was very physically talented,” said Carrie Locklear, Ashton’s mother. “Her instructors would ask her to do things and she would try and usually be able to do whatever was asked almost instantly.”
As her daughter continued to progress in gymnastics, the family had to make a decision on what was going to be best for Ashton. At the age of 11, Locklear began training with Everest Gymnastics in Huntersville under coach Qi Han, a former member of the Chinese men’s national team, and his wife, Yiwen Chen.
Because of this, the family maintains two households — one in Huntersville and the other in Hamlet.
“We have not moved, we still live in Hamlet, however we stay in an apartment closer to the gym during the week and return home late Saturday nights and go back for practice in Huntersville on Mondays,” Carrie Locklear said. “It is difficult not being able to be home every day, but it’s what we have to do in order for Ashton to train at Everest. We are committed to do whatever is necessary for her to follow her dream.”
Locklear’s dream of making the national team nearly came crashing down when he suffered a stress fracture in her back. The injury sidelined Locklear for nearly a year.
“The months it took to recover from the stress fractures were both physically and mentally very difficult,” she said. “But I just kept conditioning and set my sights on the next season and as it turned out, it was well worth it.”
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 and follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.