MOUNT WASHINGTON - For years Bullitt East senior Celina Jensen has longed to compete on the national stage.
This weekend she will get her chance.
On Saturday, Jensen, 18, will compete with fellow gymnasts from Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky in the 2012 U.S.A. Gymnastics Eastern Championships at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, Md.
“This is like a dream come true,” Jensen said. “I’ve made it as far as I could go.”
Jenson earned her spot in the competition after participating in several qualifying matches.
Because she trains in Indiana, Jensen competed in qualifying matches there before going to the state competition.
After scoring well enough at the state level, Jensen competed in the USAG regional competition in Indianapolis, where she placed fifth, earning her spot in the eastern championship.
Jensen was shocked when she found out she placed.
“I cried,” she said. “I just looked at my mom and said I made it.”
Since then, Jensen has worked to perfect her routines in preparation of her greatest challenge-the USAG Eastern Championships.
“I’m totally ready, I’m ready to go,” she said with a smile.
Asked if she would be devastated if she doesn’t place in the competition, Jensen said, “I’ll be a little disappointed, but it’s not going to devastate me...I’m just glad I made it this far.”
Jensen said her biggest fear is performing short of her own expectations.
For as long as Jensen could remember, her life has revolved around gymnastics.
Her fascination with the sport began when she was diagnosed with hyperflexibility as a child.
Jensen’s pediatrician suggested she participate in some activity involving muscle training to strengthen her joints, so her mother got her involved with gymnastics.
Though she can’t recall her early years in gymnastics, Jensen remembers how happy she was. She never dreamed it would take her so far.
Over time her dedication to the sport was tested as it has consumed much of her life.
In recent years Jensen has devoted more than 20 hours a week to gymnastics, leaving her without much of a social life.
“I didn’t get to go out a lot,” she said. “I was always at practice.”
When Jensen was in middle school she took a month hiatus from gymnastics after considering quitting the sport altogether.
It only took a month for Jensen to realize she couldn’t do without gymnastics.
In 2008 Jensen’s determination was again tested when she had to undergo reconstructive surgery after sustaining a serious ankle injury while performing.
“I think that was the only other time I felt like I didn’t want to do it anymore,” she said. “It was hard coming back after that.”
Despite the difficulty of bouncing back after three months of physical therapy, Jensen got back into gymnastics.
A few months later she injured the same ankle, only this time, the damage was far worse.
After Jensen undergoing a second reconstructive surgery, her mother was worried.
She wanted her daughter to quit, as did her coaches, but Jensen wouldn’t have it.
“I think I was more determined the second time,” Jensen said.
Six months after her surgery, she was back in the game.
Jensen sustained so many injuries during her gymnastics career that she earned the nickname “crash test dummy.”
Asked if she was a glutton for punishment, Jensen laughed and said, “pretty much.”
Though she’s seen many ups and downs in her 14 years as a gymnast, Jensen said she wouldn’t trade it for the world.
She may not pursue the sport when she heads off to the University of Louisville this fall, but she said all the years of hard work were worth it, adding that the past year has been the best of her life.
“Everything I’d really hoped for I’ve pulled it off,” she said. “That’s made all the years of sacrifice worthwhile.”