Ashton Locklear, 18, is one of America’s leading gymnasts. She won national and international titles in uneven bars in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and was a member of the gold-medal winning U.S. team at the 2014 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Nanning, China.
Now, she is in San Jose, California for the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Olympic Team Trials July 8 and 10, one step closer to achieving her lifelong dream: A spot on the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team that will compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Even today, her photo as an Olympic hopeful was tweeted by the Ellen Show and Zac Efron.
— Zac Efron (@ZacEfron) July 8, 2016
Locklear, who won her first title at age 5, hopes to be the first citizen of the Lumbee Tribe – and possibly the first Native American – to compete in gymnastics for the United States at an Olympic Games.
ICTMN caught up with Locklear before the Olympic trials to discuss her journey to Rio – and what Olympic competition would mean to her as an American and as a Lumbee.
What is your training schedule?
I train for three or four hours in the morning and then break for lunch, which usually consists of some sort of protein and fruit or veggies. Then I return and practice for another three hours.
Crowds, sounds, pressure … when you’re on the bars or beam, how do you maintain your focus?
I actually prefer noise to silence. It’s much easier to keep focused. I just focus on one skill at a time.
What’s in your head when you’re performing a difficult move?
I just tell myself I’ve done this a thousand times before in practice and just go through the motions.
Your parents are an important part of your team. Can you tell me what their role has meant to your success thus far?
I’m so appreciative of my parents for all that they do to help make it possible for me to pursue my dreams. Without their support none of this would have been possible! My mother works at my gym to pay for my tuition and competition expenses. She drives me to and from my gym every day and sees that I have what I need to help make this journey a success.
Which athletes do you see as your most formidable opponent?
The Chinese gymnasts [perform highly difficult] bar routines, but I’m relying on my execution score to raise my score enough to be competitive with them.
What do people from the Lumbee Tribe say your performance means to the Lumbee nation?
There has never been a Lumbee gymnast in the Olympics and they are all relying on me to be the first. And I hope to make them all proud and to bring recognition to my people.
Former Miss Lumbee Jackie Jacobs has created a crowd-funding web page to help fund the costs for Locklear’s family to attend the 2016 U.S. Olympic trials in San Jose. Go to www.generosity.com/sports-fundraising/help-support-Ashton-s-family-to-the-Olympic-trials.