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Local gymnast sets sight on 2028 Olympics

By Nicholas Zeller-Singh Kitsap News Group • March 27, 2024 1:30 am

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Gymnast leap Norah Christian
Frank Lee courtesy photos Norah Christian hopes to compete in the 2028 Olympics.

Kitsap County has had eight Olympians in history, the last being Bremerton swimmer Nathan Adrian at the 2012 London Olympics. The other Olympians have competed in canoe, bobsled and track events. However, the next hopeful Olympian could be Bremerton gymnast Norah Christian. Christian, who trains at Cascade Elite Gymnastics West in Silverdale, has her sight set for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

“I have a majority of the skills,” Christian said. “There are some I want to continue working on…”

Although Christian has a year left in high school through the Running Start program, she is on path to being the best gymnast in Kitsap history. “It is less than 0.01% of kids who start gymnastics ever get a chance to do what she is doing,” coach Frank Lee said. “She is talented but it’s because of her work ethic, her attitude and her willingness.” 

Lee has coached for over 40 years and has been to a few World Championships with foreign gymnasts. However, nobody has been to the level of Christian. “We have had lots of kids go to college but not make that next jump to elite status,” Lee said. “We have had other kids try but couldn’t because of injuries or something else.”

Christian is in her second season at the Senior Elite level. She has placed eighth all-around at the 2024 Winter Cup with a score of 51.85, fourth in the floor exercise at the 2023 American Classic with a 12.50 score and fifth all-around in 2022 Junior Elite division with a 49.65.

“At Winter Cup, I put so much work in the last few years, and it started to show I am meant to be here, and my work is being paid off,” Christian said.

The path has not always been smooth. Christian began at age 6 after her parents decided they did not want her to horseback ride anymore. Her aunt was the only family member with experience in gymnastics. Christian began with recreational classes once a week. “I started at Level 2 to Level 5 and got to the optional levels,” Christian said. “I moved onto (Level) 7 and moved with Frank and have been with him ever since.”

Gymnastics has 10 levels and are placed depending on their skills. Levels 2 through 5 are compulsory for beginners, so you must learn certain skills. Levels 6 and 7 are optional, which means more options and requirements for each event. Levels 8 through 10 are elite where you can choose around eight skills and two vaults and compete against top competitors in the world.

The more Christian progressed, the more adversity she faced. “I had some injuries through Level 10 and battled through that a little bit,” Christian said.

Lee said: “Norah has been through her share of injuries, disappointments and had a late start. She has been able to fight through every single time while being a great teammate and showing the younger ones if you just keep believing, you have a shot.”

Christian sacrifices a lot of her personal life to achieve her dream. Christian wakes up at 6 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. She practices from 8-11:30 a.m., does school work online, practices from 1-3:30 p.m. and finishes her school work around 8 p.m. Her schedule is similar on other days but involves strength training, meetings with sports medicine doctors, physiatrists and trainers.

Her sacrifices have paid off. Recently, Christian traveled across the country to train with 2020 Olympic all-around champion Suni Lee. “Within the last couple of years, I have gotten close with Suni Lee,” Christian said. “I went down to her gym to train with her while my coach was gone. We grew a relationship, and I have always looked up to her since she is a great athlete and very confident with herself.”

Christian has competed against some of the most notable gymnasts of all time, including three-time Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas at the Winter Cup. “I have looked up to them for so long,” Christian said. “Gabby Douglas sparked my interest in gymnastics so it’s crazy that I am competing against them now. But, you almost have to flip your mindset that I am good enough to be competing with them.”

In the last couple years, Christian has earned national attention. She will be trying out with the National team in two weeks with the hope of competing in international events. Plus, Christian recently committed to compete for the University of Auburn. “I had such a great relationship with the coaches and girls there,” Christian said. “They are so humble, kind and welcoming.”

Christian has become a role model for the young gymnasts in Kitsap. “There is a little bit of pressure on myself but I love being able to inspire these girls,” she said. “The girls are so supportive and always by my side when I need them.”

Her coach is always there, too. “I can talk to [Frank] about anything, and he is always there for me when I need him.”

Lee said: “I don’t think you can find a better role model. I don’t think there is an athlete here who Norah has not impacted in a good way. She is like my daughter and inspires me to be a better person.”

Christian’s advice for younger gymnasts is: “To never give up. If you can continue through the bad times, you can achieve whatever you want. It’s most important to believe in yourself and not compare yourself with others.”

Norah Christian elite gymnast

Christian Finishes eighth at the 2024 Winter Cup.

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