By Debra Smith Herald Writer
EVERETT — Ashley Albrecht loves gymnastics so much she does handstands around her Silver Lake home.
She’s given up birthday parties and sleepovers and endured daily four-hour practices for the love of her sport.
So the 13-year-old is particularly excited about an international gymnastics event that’s brought some of the sport’s top athletes to her hometown.
“I think it is the coolest thing I’ve ever imagined,” she said.
The Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships wrap up Sunday at Comcast Arena.
In the stands are dozens of local gymnasts excited to see their heroes defy gravity.
One of those young athletes is Ashley, a top-tier local gymnast with big dreams of her own.
She’s a Level 9 gymnast — there are 10 levels — which means she’s perfected some of the sport’s hardest skills.
Her mom, Lori Albrecht, put her daughter in gymnastics at age 4, when Ashley wouldn’t stop bouncing around on the family couch.
It took some time for Ashley to love the sport. Her mom remembers her crying after every practice in the beginning. Ashley said her first coach — an old-school Russian — was gruff.
With time, she came to love the sport. Her mom said she’s watched her once-shy daughter develop an inner strength.
“This sport has given her so much confidence,” said Lori Albrecht.
Ashley planned to attend every session she could this weekend. She also got to meet Olympic all-around gold medalist Carly Patterson at a special event at the Imagine Children’s Museum.
Friday, Ashley sat in the stands with her friends from her gym, Leading Edge Gymnastics Academy, and watched athletes from countries like Russia, Japan and Canada. Sometimes, the petite redhead would catch athletes doing skills she could perform, such as her own favorite: a Yurchenko full in a tuck position on the vault.
“I could do that,” she told a friend after she watched one gymnast perform a roundoff, back handspring, back layout.
Later, she said she was surprised that her own skills weren’t that far off from the elite athletes’.
“I could be doing all those skills if I work toward it,” she said.
The athletes perform on raised platforms with TV cameras catching their every angle.
“I think I’d get nervous,” she said, eyeing a camera zooming in for a close-up of an athlete on the beam.
Gymnastics has always come naturally to Ashley, but last year her performance took a sudden leap.
Parents typically don’t watch athletes practice. So it was a surprise for Ashley’s mom and dad the first meet of the season last year when they saw her performing high-level skills at age 12.
“My husband was literally holding the camera and gasping,” Lori Albrecht said.
Sheila Bath, an owner of Leading Edge, described Ashley as one of the gym’s most promising athletes.
“This kid wants to get there,” she said. “She’s absolutely passionate.”
While it’s tempting to think about Ashley competing as an elite gymnast, her parents are well aware of the sacrifices their daughter and their family would have to make.
So is Ashley.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” she said.
She isn’t dismissing the Olympics, but she has her sights set on an education and a future profession as a doctor.
“I’d like to compete in college,” she said.
The Kellogg’s Pacific Rim Championships continue today at Comcast Arena in Everett.
9 a.m.: Trampoline, junior prelims, finals and synchronized competition
Noon: Men’s and women’s gymnastics, junior individual event finals
2 p.m.: Trampoline, senior prelims, finals and synchronized competition
6 p.m.: Men’s and women’s gymnastics, senior individual event finals
7 p.m.: Synchronized trampoline competition
Single-session tickets are $15-$65 and can be purchased at the box office, at www.comcast arenaeverett.com or by calling 866-332-8499.