Sisters Blake and Chandler Graham of Amarillo were selected to represent TEAM USA in the Tumbling and Trampoline (T&T) discipline of Gymnastics, to represent the United States in an international competition.
The T&T discipline consists of the trampoline, tumbling, and double-mini competitions. Both sisters have won two national titles within their age and level groups in the double mini, which is a two-phase event consisting of a mount of the angle part of the double mini trampoline and a dismount off the flat part of the apparatus with a series of flips and twists before sticking a landing on the mat.
While it is not an Olympic sport yet, the double mini trampoline is recognized by the International Federation of Gymnastics for various international events as well as the World Games.
Blake Graham, the older of the two sisters at 15 years old, was selected to the Junior National Team as an elite specialist in the double mini. Next month she will travel to Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, to take place in the national team training camp. Blake is a sophomore at Tascosa High School, where she also plays volleyball.
Her younger sister, Chandler Graham, who is 13 years old, will represent USA Gymnastics Nov. 20-27 at the World Age Group Competition in Sofia, Bulgaria. To prepare for this competition, she will be joining her team of athletes in October at a training prep camp. Chandler was also selected to the USA Elite Development Program Team, which identifies gymnasts as potential national team members. Chandler is an eighth-grader at Austin Middle School. She also plays volleyball, basketball and runs track.
Both sisters train at All American Gymnastics in Amarillo and are coached by Tim Hall. The gym has placed multiple athletes on national teams in T&T. Shaylee Dunavin won the trampoline event at the 2016 USA gymnastics tournament but was narrowly denied a berth on the Olympic team due to placement cores in other qualifying events. Dunavin was named an alternate for the national team for the 2016 Olympics.
Jamie Graham, a former gymnast and the mother of the two gymnasts, spoke about the honors that were bestowed on her daughters with being named to Team USA. She said that the hard work has really paid off for both girls. They train about eight to 10 hours a week in their discipline and have trained since each was about 6 years old.
Speaking about how each of the daughters has been able to progress through skill levels from 5 to 10, mastering skills to reach the elite level, Jamie Graham said that it was a lot of hard work on their parts to reach the elite level of their respective sports and age groups.
Blake, according to her mom, is somewhat unique in T&T because she excels in all three events that also include trampoline and tumbling as well as the double mini, winning silver in the other events. Chandler specializes in trampoline and double mini. Both have won multiple state and local championships, along with the US championships in the double mini.
“It has been such an amazing journey to see both of them develop as they have in the sport,” Jamie Graham said. “There has been a history of success with this gym, and I am glad that it has taken them to this level. Gymnastics teaches a lot; it’s about discipline and is so good for development in other sports and aspects of life. All three of my kids have done gymnastics, which has developed other skills that can be used in other sports. “
She has a son, Corbin, who took gymnastics and now is a senior football player at Tascosa High School. She said Corbin is not that big, but he makes up for his size di lui with his agility and toughness di lui.
“Initially, we just did it because when they were little, we just wanted to keep them active, but they got to a point where they thought maybe we can do this in competition,” Jamie Graham said. “We really didn’t expect to have such a long run with it, but here we are six years later and the girls are competing at an elite level. “
She emphasized that both daughters have really come to enjoy doing gymnastics and have really shown a commitment to being the best that they could be. She said she is really proud that while doing this, they have both been straight-A students and members of the National Honor Society.
Blake said that her ability to learn many of the skills quickly led her to really enjoy doing gymnastics, while Chandler said the environment and community of the sport have really led to her love of doing it.
When asked if their mom being a gymnast inspired them to do gymnastics, Blake and Chandler said that it did inspire them to a good degree, but T&T is very different from the artistic type their mom competed in.
“She is my mom, so whatever she has done is going to be an inspiration to me,” Chandler said.
Chandler’s first US Championship was in trampoline, which she won by a tenth of a point.
“The feeling knowing that you came in first place in the whole United States is just a feeling that is hard to describe; it is like being on top of the world, ”she said.
Blake, who won her first US Championship in double mini in 2019, said that waiting on scores at the competition was such a nerve-wracking experience.
“I gave all that I had at the event during the competition, and when my name came out on screen with the scores, all my emotions came out when I realized that I had won,” she said. “The suspense of waiting on my scores was so suspenseful. It was a feeling that could not be matched; it is hard to put into words after working so hard for this. “
Chandler and Blake said they want to continue to work to improve in gymnastics and hope to learn from their experience with Team USA training with an elite team.
“I want to continue until I feel like I have accomplished everything I am capable of,” Blake said.
Chandler said that the opportunity to compete in international competitions really inspires her to go further in the sport.
“Competing for Team USA opens a new chapter for me; this is where you get into the very serious and elite competitions, ”she said. “It’s a new chapter and a new story, and I am very excited for it.”
When asked about how she felt about being named to Team USA, Chandler said there was no other feeling like it.
“When I was younger, I used to watch members of Team USA, and it’s crazy to believe that you are following in their footsteps,” she said. “Words cannot explain this feeling. It is crazy to believe I will compete for my country in a couple of months. “
Blake also was beyond excited to be named to Team USA.
“You are always looking up to these people when you are younger. It is something you look up to and want to be at some point and actually, to make it to this level is an amazing feeling to be on this team, ”she said.
As advice to younger athletes, Blake and Chandler shared their insights.
“Keep pushing even when its hard; do not give up when it gets hard; do not give up because it is worth it when you achieve your goals, ”Blake said.
“I have looked up to these other kids; the key is to have fun with what you do, “Chandler said.” You really need to love what you do because if you are not having fun, you can fall out of love with it. There will be bumps in the road, but if you stay with it, you will always have an outcome. “