Savannah Vinsant

By Derek Reinglass
Action photo by Ron Wyatt

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Catapulting herself through the air, twisting, turning, and returning to her feet only for a millisecond before springing afloat once again.

Her name is Savannah Vinsant. The 17-year-old member of USA Gymnastics competes on the trampoline and is a member of the senior national team.

As an athlete, it can be challenging to separate competition from the outside world. Not for Vinsant.

"When I get to the gym I flip the switch," Vinsant said. "I'm very outgoing, and love to talk, but once it's time for practice or competition, I'm all business. Then as soon as I'm done, I flip back to Bannie."

"Bannie" is a nickname given to her by her parents when she was young because she was always chattering, just like a bannie rooster you could expect to find on her family's farm in Texas.

Former world champion Dmitri Poliaroush has coached Vinsant since 2001. Vinsant was only 7 when she started, but she wasn't the typical 7-year-old entertaining the idea of gymnastics.

"Most the time when you're dealing with younger kids, they have trouble staying focused, but Savannah has always been the perfect child type," Poliaroush said. "She's very serious in the gym, always listening and making eye contact, because she's always been determined to reach the top."

Vinsant got into gymnastics by transforming her kitchen cabinets into her own personal jungle gym.

"My mom said that I was always looking to do flips and tricks off everything in the house," Vinsant said. "She always tells me how she would put the cookie jar on the top of the ice box, but I used to pull all the drawers out and use them as a ladder until the cookie jar was in reach."

When Vinsant was 4 years old, she was enrolled in a dance class. When she realized that there was a gymnastics class right before her class, she began telling her parents that dance started earlier than it really did to get there and watch the gymnasts. Less than a year later, Vinsant was competing in gymnastics.

Eight years later, her parents opened their own gymnastics gym on the front of their property. At the time she had taken a few months off from the sport, but a gym about 200 yards from her house seemed a lot more appealing then helping raise the animals on the farm, so she was lured back in and hasn't taken a break since.

When she was younger she practiced three to five times a week, but now Vinsant is practicing every day and taking college courses at the local community college. It's not that school isn't important to her, but right now she is focused on fulfilling her dream.

"I'm not entirely sure what my future holds in terms of college, but right now my focus is primarily on making the Olympics," Vinsant said. "It's too close to not set it as my top priority.

"When you're younger, you dream big," Vinsant said. "Often times kid's dreams either change or never take form, and there's not a day that goes by that I don't think about how amazingly close I am to achieving mine. It's in my hands, now I just have finish what I've started."

In 2010, Vinsant became the first female trampolinist to represent the United States in the Youth Olympics. An experience she considers to be her biggest accomplishment and best memory thus far.

"Wearing the letters U.S.A, and representing the entire country brings pressure, but it also provides a great deal of motivation and pride," Vinsant said.

Representing the USA places Vinsant in the limelight, something she will have to become used to if she is to reach the Olympics.

"Although I was really young, I still remember watching the 1996 Olympic gymnasts," Vinsant said. "They were what inspired my love of the sport. As I achieve my own personal success, I want to make sure that if somebody is out there looking to me as their role model, that I'm always genuine. I don't believe in being boastful, because it's not about letting people know who you are, it's about showing them."

Before practice and competitions Vinsant always makes sure to pray. "I don't really have any pre-game rituals, other than praying," Vinsant said. "There's something about praying that just clears my mind and soothes me. I'm not sure if it's superstitious, but I feel more focused and ready. I also listen to music on my iPod to help me get pumped up. The songs and artists change all the time, but one song that remains a constant is Eminem's 'Lose Yourself.'"

Outside the gymnastics realm, Vinsant enjoys spending time doing various outdoor activities. "I'm a country girl," Vinsant said. "I love mud riding and going to the lake."

This country girl, known as Bannie, has kicked into high gear in preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, but she never forgets to flip the switch back down, and return to the world beyond gym.

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