8-year-old rising to the top in gymnastics

Aug. 29, 2014 @ 06:58 AM

Azalea Miron, 8, stretched and curved her body into positions that looked like she was made out of rubber. With her natural talent for bending her spine into impossible shapes and her dedication to succeed, Azalea quickly moved from beginner gymnastics classes to Level 2 classes at Shooting Stars of Hickory.

“When I went to the gym on my first day, I was scared because I didn’t know anyone,” Azalea said.

Watching Azalea now, you would not be able to tell she was ever nervous. From the moment she walks in Shooting Stars, Azalea is happily chatting with her teammates, pushing herself to hold her handstands longer and bouncy off springboards to flip onto mats.

Before beginning classes less than a year ago, she taught herself how to do cartwheels and handstands by watching a DVD. She desperately wanted to take gymnastics classes, so her mom took her daughter to a small gym in Lenoir. However, the gym staff recommended Shooting Stars, where Azalea could receive more advanced training to hone her natural talent.

Azalea began taking classes last October, working on balance beam, bar, fault and floor routines. Stephen Miron, Azalea’s father, said the coach at Shooting Stars soon said he had been looking “for someone like her for a long time.”

She quickly moved from the entrance class to Level 2, skipping Level 1 altogether.

Jennifer Miron, Azalea’s mom, said her daughter has been active and limber since she was born.

“From since my belly ‘til now, (she has) always been hanging on doorknobs, doing tricks in the house,” she said.

Azalea said she wants to be a professional gymnast and that competing is a breeze.

“At my first competition, I was nervous, but in the middle of it, I said, ‘Hey, this ain’t so bad,’” she said.

Azalea also has gained a measure of wider recognition -- her father recently submitted a picture of Azalea at the 2014 South Carolina Charleston Cup to a leotard company called GK Elite, which has used it as part of the leotard’s “Everyday Champion” advertising campaign in magazines and social media. In the photo, Azalea shows off a big grin and gives two thumbs up in a purple GK Elite leotard.

“I thought it was a great picture,” Miron said. “I wanted to share it.”

Azalea's rapid development in gymnastics and the advertising recognition have been a little bit of a shock, Stephen Miron said.

“This only happens in the movies. This doesn’t happen to us,” he said.

Jennifer Miron added, “It’s been very quick. It changed our lives.”