Carmel Valley rhythmic gymnast heads to 2012 USA Gymnastics Championships

Carmel Valley resident and Canyon Crest Academy freshman Andria Gao recently qualified to compete in the 2012 USA Gymnastics Rhythmic Championships (formerly Visa Championships). The competition will be held in conjunction with U.S. Olympic Trials for Artistic Gymnastics in San Jose, Calif., from June 26-27.

On June 8 and 9, in Orlando, Fla., Andria had a strong showing at the 2012 Junior Olympic and National Qualifier for USA Rhythmic Gymnastics. Her performance earned her a berth at the 2012 USA Gymnastics Rhythmic Championships. Nationwide, only 25 gymnasts qualified in the junior level; among them, Andria placed 13th all around. She also earned an 8th place medal in Clubs routine. She is a gymnast of level 10, the highest level in USA gymnastics competition.

As the only gymnast from San Diego to attend the 2012 USA Gymnastics Rhythmic Championships, Andria started training for rhythmic gymnastics at age 5. Now she trains 15 hours per week in the gym and additional hours in ballet classes. She is coached by Iordanka (Dani) Kovatchka of the SoCal Rhythmics club. Dani is a former World Championship silver medalist from Bulgaria.

Rhythmic gymnastics consists of music, apparatus tossing, dance movement, leaping, pirouette and balancing. Elegant and graceful, yet it demands from the athlete the great physical and mental strength. Behind the flawless beauty of the sport lies a complex combination of high criteria and firm requirements as to the content of the routines, the degrees of difficulty involved, the technique of handling the apparatus and overall body control.

With Canyon Crest Academy’s challenging and fast pacing quarter system, Andria has been working extra hard to balance her gymnastics practice and academic course loads. Nevertheless, Andria always remains positive. She treats these challenges as opportunities to not only embrace the sport she loves so dearly, but to also build character and mental toughness.

This is Andria’s second year qualified for this prestigious annual event. She looks forward to competing with and seeing again her fellow gymnasts from all over the country. Within USA rhythmic gymnastics’ tight-knit community, gymnasts compete and grow up together. On the competition floor, they are fierce competitors, but off the floor they are good friends.

The SoCal Rhythmic club has a recreational program in addition to the competitive team and is always looking for enthusiastic new gymnasts. No experience needed. Classes for beginners are on Mondays and Fridays from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Magdalena Ecke YMCA in Encinitas. Summer camp is available. Please visit

for more information.