All Chalked Up
In July, people from all over the world will eagerly tune into the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Coronavirus or not, the Olympics is a long-standing tradition that the world’s best athletes look forward to competing in every two years, and the show must go on! Among the most popular events, gymnastics draws a loyal following of millions, worldwide. Young boys and girls from gyms around the globe cheer for Olympic celebrities competing for the coveted gold medals. Growing up, University of Oklahoma freshman, Gabe Smith, was one of these children watching the Olympics, wide-eyed in front of the television. Watching events like the Olympics grew Gabe’s passion for gymnastics and drove him to overcome a serious injury, times of fear and adverse situations to find success in the world of gymnastics. Gabe knew if he were going to be an elite gymnast, it was going to take hard work, dedication and perseverance. Gabe has risen to the challenge.
The son of Tricia and Bryan Smith, Gabe attended Kindergarten through twelfth grade at Pleasant Grove Independent School District in Texarkana. “I began gymnastics around the age of three at Joni’s Dance and Gymnastics Center,” Gabe recalls. “My sister (Angel) was the one that originally inspired me to try out gymnastics. When I was little, my babysitter worked at a gymnasium and suggested my sister and I try it out.” Gabe and his sister share the same hard work ethic and passion for fine arts. Once a gymnast herself, Angel is now a full time professional dancer in Los Angeles.
Gabe nurtured his love for gymnastics throughout his childhood and into high school. The first coach he remembers pushing him to new limits was Lloyd White at Northeast Texas Elite Gymnastics (NETEG). As Gabe grew older, he realized that his talent might could become more than a hobby. “Coach Robert Sellers has definitely made the biggest impact on my gymnastics career,” Gabe states. “Throughout high school, he gave me the foundation I needed to be where I am. Without him, I wouldn’t be.”
With a focus on the vault and rings, Gabe’s list of accomplishments and awards is not to be understated. He is a Level Four and Level Five State Champion, and a Regional Qualifier for Level Ten. When asked to list his accomplishments, Gabe considers overcoming a serious injury in order to continue to pursue his dream as a gymnast to be his greatest personal victory. “In December 2019, I found out I fractured my lower back and needed to wear a brace for four months. I was told that I may never be able to do gymnastics again. I was determined to get back into the game and not give up quite yet.” Gabe’s patience, dedication to physical therapy, and unremitting hard work led him to a full recovery and the opportunity to pursue his gymnastic dreams at the next level.
After high school in 2020, Gabe chose to attend the University of Oklahoma and compete with the Oklahoma Gymnastics Club. Gabe’s schedule changed immensely when he entered college. “Before college, I practiced around 20 hours a week,” Gabe said. “Now that I am in college, it is much more intense. We have 6:00 am workouts along with normal practice.” Yet, this intense workout schedule has not dampened Gabe’s resolve to succeed in his schooling as well. “Outside of gymnastics, I’m usually doing schoolwork or attending classes. I’m majoring in Biomedical Engineering so it takes up a lot of time, but I find time to socialize with friends when I can,” Gabe said.
Like most big moments in life, before Gabe gets “on the mat,” he admits that one of the most prominent emotions he feels is fear. “We push the mind and body to do things most would think to be impossible. However, getting over that fear is the most rewarding feeling I leave with while doing gymnastics.” Gabe’s ultimate goal and motivation for continuing to put in the long hours at the gym is to show people the incredible hard work and dedication the sport of gymnastics takes and that if he can do it, anyone can. Gabe says that there is not just one athlete in particular that he looks up to in the world of gymnastics because there are so many people who have dedicated their lives to gymnastics; it is just too hard to pick. Nevertheless, he says that Nile Wilson from YouTube gives light to the positive aspects of gymnastics and shows the world just how fun it can be, so if you are looking for someone to follow, he would be a good start.
Gabe truly believes that everyone considering gymnastics should give it a try. He says, “They could end up loving it, or hating it. Whatever makes them happy is what I feel they should do.” Looking back, Gabe said, “If I could go back to my younger self, I would tell myself to push myself more, and not get beat down.” Gabe is dedicated to making himself a better gymnast every day, and he has no intentions of stopping anytime soon. And who knows? Maybe someday he will compete in the Olympics and motivate the next generation of remarkable athletes to pursue the same passion.