A gymnastic gift

Published 8:37 pm Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Israel Lewis was 5 years old, and he had a choice. Should he take up tumbling or not?

Israel Lewis, who is 9 years old, has won two state championships in the pommel horse event and took 12th in the event at a regional-level competition in Maryland over the weekend.

Israel Lewis, who is 9 years old, has won two state championships in the pommel horse event and took 12th in the event at a regional-level competition in Maryland over the weekend.

“It was between that and Tae Kwon Do, and he picked tumbling,” his mother, Linda Lewis, said.

And he has spent many hours in the gym in the years since, honing his gymnastic talent.

Email newsletter signup

While on the verge of turning 9 earlier this month, Israel won his second state championship in the pommel horse event.

“It’s a gift,” Linda Lewis said, explaining why her son has been so successful so early with gymnastics. “Honestly, it’s a gift.”

And it is one that has impressed his family, which has taken different routes athletically.

“He has three older brothers, but they are volleyball players, football players and basketball players,” Lewis said.

What prompted Israel’s parents to present him with the option of tumbling were the glimpses of his abilities on display in the Lewis household.

“Just seeing him around the house, standing on the furniture, walking on the furniture, was driving us crazy,” Linda Lewis said, noting he would also pull himself up on chairs or do handstands between their two couches.

Israel, who is a third-grader at Driver Elementary, said that when he was 5, he wanted to do flips, and he discovered that “you can do more flipping in gymnastics.”

He did tumbling at World Class Gymnastics Too in Suffolk, and his mother said that after three or four months, a coach there saw some talent in him and wanted him to do a little bit more.

Israel started practicing and later, when his coach left for out-of-state work, Israel ended up going to Triple T Sports Center, also in Suffolk, and he was put on a team there.

“And he just took off from there,” Linda Lewis said.

Young gymnasts cannot compete until they are 6 years old, but once Israel reached that age, he competed for the first time in a meet at the College of William & Mary.

While still 6, he won his first state championship in the pommel horse event, competing at level four, which refers to skill level. There are 10 levels with different age groups in each level, and coaches determine when a gymnast moves up.

On March 13, Israel won the pommel horse state championship for level five, age 8 during the 2016 Virginia Boys Level 5-10 State Championships at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach.

Originally, it was possible he could have already moved beyond level five at that point, but his progress was slowed after he suffered a hairline fracture to the elbow when he was in first grade.

His coach decided to repeat Israel at level five so he could build his confidence back up.

Following his state title win, Israel traveled to Landover, Md., this past weekend to compete in the 2016 Region VII Championships, his second consecutive trip to regionals. He did well, ranking 36th overall and 12th on the pommel horse.

Driver Elementary’s principal Melodie Griffin said she was pleased to have Israel represent the school in the regional competition again.

“Israel is a wonderful student as well as a talented athlete,” she stated in a press release. “It is a blessing to have a student who performs well in both the classroom and the gym. I pray he continues to excel in both arenas.”

Laura Miller, Israel’s teacher at Driver Elementary, said the 9-year-old has a competitive spirit that helps him excel.

“Israel is a very good student who maintains honor roll grades,” she stated in the release. “He’s even got the competitive spirit in class. He doesn’t like his team to lose, no matter what we’re playing.”

Though he just turned 9 on March 21, Israel already has long-term gymnastics goals in place. He said he wants “to do the top, the hardest skills in the Olympics,” and he wants to do them as an Olympian one day.