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Local Gymnast Goes for Gold
December 02, 2019

Nicole Desmond is just 11 years old, but already she dreams of performing in the Olympics.

And right now, this extraordinary athlete from Wind Gap is on the fast track to reaching the elite level in gymnastics.

“I Iike gymnastics because I can do flips, and I want to to the Olympics and be like Simone Biles,” Nicole said.

Nicole, who competes for the Parkettes, recently wowed the coaching staff at a U.S. training camp in Crossville, Tennessee. St. Luke’s is the official Sports Medicine Provider for the Parkettes.

Nicole won the gold medal in all-around and on the beam in June the Hopes Championships for the 10-11-year-old age group.

Hopes is basically the starting gate for gymnasts looking to compete at the elite level. Hopes level gymnasts compete in national competitions. Gymnasts who earn the elite level qualify for international competition.

Nicole qualified for Hopes by passing both elite compulsory and optional qualifiers to reach a minimum score. Nicole is allowed to compete at elite meets, but not as a Junior Elite.

Despite being 11, Nicole will compete in the Hopes 12-13 age group this season.

“Her goal is to win that also,” said her mom, Sarajane, a former gymnast at Parkettes, who did not make the elite level.

“I’m not sure yet if we’re going to try to go international as a Junior Elite this year,” said Parkettes coach Robin Netwall, who attended a USA Gymnastics training camp with Nicole in October. “Being at the training camp and just seeing what is out there, she has a pretty good chance of becoming Junior Elite, which would make her eligible for international competitions in Canada and Italy next year.”

Nicole won first place all-around and on beam at the Simone Biles National Elite Qualifier last February to earn the Hopes 10-11 optional score.  At the Pennsylvania State Championship in March, she won gold with a 9.7 on beam, and finished out her Level 10 competitions by taking fifth on beam and eight all-around at the Region 7 Championships to earn first alternate on the Region 7 Junior Olympic National Team.

Nicole had just started walking when Sarajane took her to a Mommy and Me class at Parkettes, and she’s stuck with it ever since.

“I felt she had potential,” Sarajane said. “Like any other little girl, she loved it from the very beginning. I feel like when she was nine turning 10, as a Level 8, she really started to excel. She’s always been a little bit ahead on beam. She’s pretty graceful. It’s in her nature; I don’t think anyone really taught her that.”

She comes by that athletic ability not just from Sarajane’s gymnastics background. Dad Scott was an outstanding wrestler and is a high school coach in the wrestling-rich Lehigh Valley. Brothers Nathan and Noah are both wrestlers, so awareness of where your body is in very strange positions is almost genetic.

“A lot of kids go upside down and start flipping and twisting and lose their direction, and that’s when they end up crashing,” Netwall said. “Nicole is very aware of where she is and what she’s doing.

Nicole has a confidence and is aggressive with the elements in her routines. Beam is her strongest event, but she’s also an elegant dancer, which makes her very strong in floor exercise.

Netwall said the coaches at the USA Gymnastics training camp sat up and took notice with three new tumbling passes she performed there.

Nicole’s first qualifiers for making Junior Elite aren’t until April, so she has plenty of time to add more dazzle and finesse to her routines.

She will be 16 in time for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris, France, and qualifying for that would be a dream come true.

“She absolute loves gymnastics and thinks she’s going to be in the Olympics,’ Sarajane said.

“She’s very gifted,” Netwall said. “Even as a 9-year-old, you could see she has what it takes.”

And that’s an extraordinary compliment for an extraordinary gymnast.