Bio: Lindner, Rachel (AAU National Gymnastics Champ – 2016)
Surnames: Lindner, Lesar, Dryer
----Source: Tribune/Record/Gleaner (Abbotsford, Wis.) 03 Aug 2016
by Dean Lesar
Rachel Lindner performs her floor routine at a recent AAU meet. After
the Marshfield MAGIC Gymnastics program four years ago, she has advanced rapidly
through skill levels and won a gold medal in the fl oor exercise at the July AAU national
meet in Florida
After watching American gymnast Gabby Douglas win the all-around gold medal at
the 2012 Summer Olympics, Rachel Lindner and a friend thought they might like to
give the sport a whirl. The friend tried it out but didn’t like it so much, but
Rachel was soon hooked. Just four years later, she is a national AAU floor
exercise champion who is becoming more skilled every day at a sport she might
well have never tried.
Rachel is 13 now and about to enter the eighth grade in Greenwood. The day after her birthday on July 1, she performed a floor routine at the AAU Nationals meet at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Florida that earned her the highest score of any competitor in her level, making her the national champ in the event and the bronze medal winner for her overall score among four events. It was a triumphant moment for a girl who puts everything she has into her sport and who has excelled after starting at a relatively late age.
Traci and Dean Lindner’s daughter remembers watching Douglas and the U.S. gymnastics team on TV in the summer of 2012. A short while later, a friend asked Rachel if she’d like to try out for the Marshfield program. Sure, why not, Rachel thought. Traci had an initial lukewarm impression of the idea, but figured she could work in an extra trip to Marshfield or two for a short while.
“Maybe I can find a way to do one day a week or every other week,” Traci said of trying to work gymnastics practices into the family’s already hectic schedule. Little did she know.
Rachel’s friend wasn’t interested in gymnastics for long, but Rachel took a quick liking to it. She found she was quite good at the tumbling exercises and asked her mother to allow her to continue.
“I wanted to give it another six weeks and I started to like it,” she said.
Rachel began the sport at age 9, when many of the other girls in the Marshfield program had already begun between 3 and 5. However, her natural agility soon showed, and she was promoted to the second skill level for competition in her second year. During that season, she was moved up to the competitive team, and for her first competition had to learn her routine in just a few weeks. No problem — she took first place.
By the next summer, Rachel had qualified for her fi rst national meet, and placed 11th overall at her level. The next season, she was promoted all the way to Level 4, and again qualified for nationals. This past year, in Level 5, Rachel earned a 9.275 (on a scale of 10) in her floor routine to win the gold medal, and also took third in the balance beam, fourth in the vault, and sixth in the uneven bars for an all-around third-place standing.
She knew she had nailed her floor routine at the national meet.
“She came off the mat and said, ‘I think I might have medaled,’” Traci said.
Becoming a national event champion was a rapid climb for a girl who only four years earlier had never even attempted to perform a maneuver on a 4-inch balance beam or launch herself into a back handspring.
“When I first tried it, I didn’t even have a cartwheel,” Rachel said.
Her mother said it took Rachel and the family a while to learn the lingo and expectations of the sport.
“We were oblivious to this gymnastics world,” Traci said.
Allie Dryer, Rachel’s coach in the Marshfield MAGIC Gymnastics program, said Rachel has a unique blend of natural ability and a persistent work ethic that has allowed her to develop so far, so fast on the mat and other apparatus.
“She moved up incredibly quickly,” Dryer said, and even took the rare step of completely bypassing a skill level.
“Rachel is incredibly strong but at the same time, she’s flexible and graceful,” her coach said. “She has the best of both abilities. She’s also a very determined kid.”
Dryer said good gymnasts must have innate skills to be among the best, but it also takes hard work and time to hone those skills.
“It’s definitely a mix,” Dryer said. “There’s a lot of refining along the way and it’s only learned by putting in the time and effort to learn it. It’s definitely a quality that makes Rachel stand out. She’s definitely committed.”
As a matter of fact, Traci said her only daughter’s favorite thing to do is practice. The gymnasts in the Marshfield program are expected to attend regular practices two weeknights and every Saturday all through the school year, and Rachel is always raring to go.
“She would rather be at practice than anything else,” Traci said. “If there’s an extra practice, she just begs to go, and they push them hard
Rachel said the practices include a lot of physical work to build core strength — push-ups, pull-ups, planks and running. But she doesn’t mind, because she knows it’s part of getting better. Being able to master a new technique or skill is what drives her.
“When you get a new skill, you feel like you accomplished a goal,” Rachel said. “It takes a long time to learn a new skill.”
Dryer said she enjoys working with Rachel because she is so coachable and eager to improve.
“She will stay there until she gets it,” Dryer said. She doesn’t give up.”
Rachel has already tested into Level 6. Now she’ll be able to plan her own routines on the fl oor exercise and balance beam. Later this month she’ll be attending a gymnastics camp in Tennessee led by two former Olympians.
Gaining experience at larger events should only help Rachel get better yet, her coach said. She does have a natural calmness about her and is able to tune out her surroundings. A little nervousness did affect her in her first event at the recent national meet, Dryer said, but she shrugged it off.
In the first rotation in Florida, Rachel fell off the balance beam in what Dryer said was a “very uncharacteristic” error.
“It was pretty obvious her nerves were getting to her a little bit,” Dryer said. “Rachel really wanted to do well so she put that pressure on herself. It was very impressive to me how she responded from there forward. She put her best foot forward in the rest of the events.”
Traci also said it’s uncanny how Rachel is able to concentrate on her skills. It may help that she does not wear her glasses during meets, so isn’t able to clearly see the crowd and the other competitors.
Dryer said Rachel is able to stay inside herself and focus when others might be panicked by the crowds and the frenzy of a large meet.
“She’s pretty easy-going,” Dryer said. “She has an ability to ignore what’s going on around her and just focus on Rachel.”
Rachel can continue to compete and practice with the Marshfi eld AAU program through age 18. She cannot participate in high school gymnastics because Greenwood doesn’t offer the sport (Marsh- fi eld does but only for students of that district), but Dryer said she will have plenty of chances to grow and perhaps compete one day at the college level.
“She’s got a lot of gymnastics left,” her coach said. “I expect she’ll want to grow. I’m excited to see where her gymnastics will take her. She’s more motivated and realizing her potential.”
Greenwood eighth-grader Rachel Lindner
shows the medals she won at the July
national AAU gymnastics meet in Florida.
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