In Her Light
Meet Jayla Franklin, an inspiring rhythmic gymnast from Los Angeles, California, as we follow her journey to the 2019 Rhythmic Junior Olympics Championships.
The path to the Junior Olympics as a rhythmic gymnast parallels the actual physical journey from Los Angeles to Lake Placid, NY home of the Olympic Training facility, and the setting for 2019 Rhythmic Junior Olympics Championships. It is a journey that combines several hours by plane, car and even ferry to reach this coveted location for most athletes in their career. Not unlike the travel to Lake Placid, rhythmic gymnastics requires multiple disciplines to reach its final destination of ultimate routines. The sport combines ballet and creative movements to music while working with ribbons, balls, hoops, ropes, and clubs in a choreographed dance and-tumble routine.
At age 10, as a level 6 rhythmic gymnast, Jayla embraces the challenge head-on with 5 days a week practice sessions with her coach, Nicole Mezheritsky. These sessions are increased with intensity for time at the Junior Olympics. The correct stance on toes, body posture, and amplitude of each leap and jump, as well as the routine itself all, run through her mind before hitting the mat. The judges will look for the originality and difficulty of her routine but will have eyes on every element of her performance and body movement. Every arch and every turn yields from her hard work. She reaches for each apparatus with poise, strength and with the determination that has to lead her to this very moment. It is with one deep breath she steps out on the mat to make her mark.
Only from the heart can you touch the sky.
In Her Words...
When did you first start rhythmic gymnastics and when did you realize you wanted to compete in the Junior Olympics ("JO")?
I first started rhythmic gymnastics at the end of October 2016 after watching the rhythmic gymnastics in the Olympics with my mom. I was doing artistic gymnastics for about 6 months and we kinda realized that my body type might be better for rhythmic gymnastics. So we did a try out class at my current school, Rhythmic Academy of Los Angeles and I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do.
Competing in the Junior Olympics its kind of just part of the competition process, it is the last event in the season that you need to qualify for in order to compete in. When you become a professional / competitive athlete then JO is the ultimate goal and everything your work for throughout the season. I worked very hard this season and qualified in my Region to go to Nationals/JO's. I was just so happy and it gives you motivation to keep going because it justification that you have the talent and work ethic to take it all the way!!!
Describe what it was like when you first walked on the mat before your first apparatus at Lake Placid? What goes through your mind? How did you feel?
I get nervous before every competition, I guess its just part of being a human being with emotions and not knowing the outcome of your routine. So in JO's that was no different. But I was also confident in myself because I knew I had worked hard all year and was prepared...I think the main pressure especially in this sport which is so different form like Football or Basketball where you have multiple hours to get goals and points, in
rhythmic gymnastics you only have 90 seconds in your routine. One big mistake and a chance to place is out!!!!!!! Minor mistakes you can recover from but its literals one routine, one chance! Everything has to be nearly perfect, from pointing your toes, to the way you throw, catch your apparatus.. I mean I seen girls loose by 0.1 which is like nothing. So every tiny mistake is a deduction and decides on winning or loosing!
You typically practice daily for hours in your regular already rigorous schedule -How does your training routine change or differ for the JO?
Yes, I practice 4.5 hours a day 6 days a week. Competition season here in the USA is January to end of May when we have JO's. For some of the older girls if they qualify for Nationals they have season till June. So during completion season in general are almost no days off, you just keep going. To prepare for JO's its the same thing. I think you add more private lessons with your coach, so you get one on one training and focus on your weaknesses and to get everything perfect! I don't train Sundays, but that's about it. Your become this well oiled machine, your body is flexible and training everyday it stays flexible which is a big part in this sport. Of course after all training sessions we do recovery so our bodies get rest it needs.
How do you choose your routines to compete?
I do not choose my routines. USA gymnastics releases the list of apparatus each level (3-10) will have for that particular year. It changes here and there. So for Level 6 (my level in JO's) my apparatuses/routines this year were floor (no apparatus), rope, hoop and ribbon. So once I started level 6 and we knew the apparatus my head coach , Galyna Gorbis chooses the music. Music is the first thing, they choose carefully to make sure it matches each athletes physic, personality, you know to make you feel and look amazing. Not every song goes with every athlete. Songs can't have any words in them till you get to level 9 and 10. Once your music is picked out, my head coach Galyna makes my routines to fit USA Gymnastics Code, meaning there has to be a certain amount of balances, turns, masteries, risks, body movements and dance steps in it. All of these elements add up to a certain amount of points that you trying to collect by doing your routine and every mistake you make, deductions occur that then bring your point value down. Every level is different and the higher the level the more is packed into 90 second routine. So you can see its quiet complicated and meticulous. People only see 1.5 minutes of magic but have no clue what goes into it.
What is your favorite moment to date in competition?
My favorite moment was winning Grand Champion for my state. I mean it doesn't get better then winning the state you live in. But there is many moments, not just winning, but being a part of these competitions and seeing yourself grow and becoming better. In JO's I came in 7th all around in the country, which is not 1st place, but being 7th out of 167 athletes and just to make top 10 in the country is a big accomplishment. For me winning is not the most important thing, of course it is what you work towards, but it the journey and the learning experience, the discipline and friendships you make along the way. I know all that I will have even after I retire from this sport!
What do you think is the biggest lesson you have learned in your time doing RG?
The biggest lesson for me that I have learned is BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!!!!!!!!!! I think for me that is/still is the biggest challenge. I have the training down, the discipline to go in everyday for hours and train while other kids are playing or out swimming, I am in the gym working. But having the best coaches, the best routines, the most beautiful leotards, at the end of it when you step out on the carpet, you are all alone, nobody can do your routines for you, and you know you only have 90 seconds to prove yourself and that's where the self-doubt starts... you question everything, like what IF? So telling myself to believe in myself and no matter what happens I will be OK!!!! I either do good and win, or I make mistakes and learn from it. Either or its a win-win situation.
What are some of your hopes and dreams for the future? in rhythmic gymnastics? in general?
My hopes for
rhythmic gymnastics is to make national team member level 10 and represent my country in international competitions. I will be 18 when the Olympics come to my city here in Los Angeles, so I mean that would be the dream!!!!!!!!!! I will be the perfect age and its in my own city. I call that : MEANT TO BE!!!!!!!
My dreams for my future in general I want to be successful in whatever I do. That's part of why
rhythmic gymnastics is good for me because it really teaches me discipline and work ethic and that I can use in anything and everything I do in life. I hope to be healthy and happy and discover new things, help animals, maybe even become a veterinarian. I also love modeling which I do a lot of now already so the sky is the limit. I think as long as you are happy in the things you do you have succeeded already!
What's some advice you would offer to someone who is looking to start competing in the Junior Olympics?
Depending on where you are in your Rhythmic journey, whether you are just starting out recreational or doing it for a few years, just stay focused. There has been many days filled with tears and frustrations, but if you don't fail, how can you learn? So just DON'T GIVE UP!!!!!!!!!!!!! Keep pushing, keep working, keep growing, keep learning and trust your coaches, apply the lessons they teach you. and BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
To learn more about Jayla and her continuing careers as now a Level 7 rhythmic gymnast, please follow her here