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Top Flight's Zemeir grew up in the gym

Kyle Zemeir is the first, but he hopes he is not the last.

The recent graduate of Marriotts Ridge High School is the first Top Flight gymnast — boy or girl — to qualify and compete in the Visa Championships.

With a combined score of 160.600, he placed 12th all-around at the Visa Championships. He was sixth on the high bar, seventh on vault and eighth on the still rings in his first big competition.

"I have been to nationals before, but Visa is nothing like nationals. Everyone is on a whole new level," he said.

Zemier qualified for the Visa Championships by finishing 13th at the nationals. The top 18 gymnasts advanced to Visa, which is a stepping stone toward qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team.

Zemeir's mother, Annette, says her son, now 17, grew up at Columbia's Top Flight Gymnastics.

"Kyle was two or three weeks old when I brought his older sister there for her first class," she said. "It's been his second home. It's been a stable place in his life. His school might change but he could always count on the gym."

"I've literally been in the gym my whole life," Kyle said. As a toddler he and his mother took parent/child classes. As he progressed, he took other classes. In second grade, he joined a USAG boys team and has been competing ever since.

He is a hard worker who loves challenges.

"You work on something so long and then when you accomplish it there is nothing that compares to that," he said.

Dmitriy Gavrilyuk and Oleg Bezrodniy are his coaches at Top Flight.

Zemeir says he doesn't have a specialty, but the high bar is his favorite event. "I can fly high and do lots of flips."

Being a good gymnast requires hours of practice. Zemeir works out six days a week — either at Top Flight or with a personal trainer, who helps with strength training.

The last two years of high school, he trained for three and a half hours four days a week after school.

"I had to get all of my schoolwork done before going to practice," he said. "I got home at 2:30 and worked straight through until time to go to practice."

His concentration and time management skills led to a 4.5 weighted grade-point average.

Zemeir has chosen to continue his studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He'll also continue gymnastics there. Cal is one of just 17 colleges in the nation with a men's gymnastics team.

Like many non-revenue sports, Cal lost its gymnastics program last year. Zemeir said team members and alumni put together a "huge outreach program" and raised enough money to fund the team for 10 years.

He won't have a scholarship his first year, but might be eligible for one his second year.

Zemeir plans to study bio-medical engineering with the possibility of going to medical school.

And he's even thinking further than that. "If I want to go to the Olympics, Cal is the place for me," he said. "This past year opened a lot of doors for me, so it is not a complete long shot."

Zemeir low keys his Visa Championship appearance, but he hopes that it inspires others. "I hope that other people can follow in my footsteps," he said.

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