By a few years dedicated to coaching with WHGF, the 16-year-old rhythmic gymnast has remodeled her athletic prowess right into a two-time regional champion in flooring, membership and ball workouts.
This previous summer season she grew to become Harlem’s first consultant for Workforce USA in final summer season’s Maccabiah Video games, acknowledged because the Jewish Olympics and third largest sporting occasion on this planet with 10,000 opponents from 80 international locations collaborating in 42 completely different sports activities.
“We’re doing a sport that’s extraordinarily troublesome whereas we’ve to make it look straightforward,” Wickham mentioned. “We’ve to smile and make it satisfying to observe. This isn’t a soccer recreation the place everybody is aware of you’re an athlete and you’ll sweat and cry so long as you’re nonetheless enjoying. This can be a efficiency. You might be performing in a contest the place every little thing is being judged and other people don’t notice how laborious it’s.
“Let’s say you mess up early in a routine; you should faux that by no means occurred. It’s a whole lot of psychological fortitude as a result of you must maintain being robust all the best way till the top.”
“It’s like this massive household recreation the place all of us have a good time our laborious work,” Wickham mentioned. “For all of the hours coaching, once we compete, we see it.
“It’s not being rewarded for it, however I just like the performing. I really like performing for the mother and father. The children come and watch me and say they love to observe me carry out and so they wish to do gymnastics. That’s actually a particular feeling.”
Wickham excels in rhythmic gymnastics regardless of many accidents, together with struggling a extreme foot damage when she suffered a number of fractures as a 10-year-old.
Her optimistic mindset has been the cure-all to any restoration. Wickham says she’d reasonably undergo the ache of any bodily ailment than persevere the emotional stress of lacking rhythmic gymnastics.
“The laborious half is actually taking a break and never letting the damage worsen by practising,” she mentioned. “You’re keen on doing gymnastics and that’s what I wish to do. It will get to the purpose the place it’s actually laborious to cease and take a break generally. I feel the truth that I’ve gotten rather a lot higher actually exhibits how robust I’m.”
As we speak, Wickham devotes 12 hours of coaching throughout weekdays and 4 hours on weekends alongside her WHGF teammates. That doesn’t embody two hours per week devoted to bodily remedy and ballet exercises.
She’s a sponge on the subject of receiving directions, whether or not it’s from Hilliard, founding father of WHGF and USA Gymnastics Corridor of Famer, or WHGF Rhythmic Gymnastics head coach Alexis Web page, herself a former member of the U.S. Rhythmic Gymnastics Nationwide Workforce.
“Each time (Wendy Hilliard) comes and watches my routine or watches me observe,” mentioned Wickham, “she explains one thing to me. She says, ‘That’s why I receives a commission the massive bucks.’
“When (Alexis Web page) began teaching me she was 17. I really feel like we’ve this bond due to mutual respect. She doesn’t coach me like a little bit child. She choreographs routines for me particularly the place it has my vitality in them.”
Away from coaching and competitors, Wickham is a typical highschool sophomore at Columbia Secondary College in Manhattan. She retains up along with her research and homework – it helps that her father is a trainer – and enjoys life’s easy issues like spending time along with her household and mates, enjoyable, and watching TV.
Up to now, the Maccabiah Video games have been her largest stage. Whereas performing in Israel, a few of Wickham’s classmates tuned in, even watching her carry out dwell at 4 a.m. ET and posting Instagrams.
“I’m simply doing one other passion outdoors of faculty,” she mentioned. “I’m simply doing a sport. I simply occur to be doing it on a really massive scale.
“I’m not a celeb or something.”
Talking of celebrities, her journey to Israel supplied a chance to satisfy rhythmic gymnast sensation Linoy Ashram, who in 2021 within the Tokyo Olympics grew to become Israel’s third-ever gold medalist. “I assumed I used to be going to go out,” Wickham mentioned of their encounter. “I used to be in awe.”
Israeli Olympian Nicol Zelikman, a two-time medalist within the 2016 European Junior Championship, was in attendance to observe one among Wickham’s coaching classes.
“I did a routine which was one among my favorites on the time and he or she clapped and mentioned she favored it,” Wickham mentioned of Zelikman’s look. “I assumed I used to be going to faint…She favored it and that’s type of loopy. She’s a nationwide crew member and he or she favored my routine.”
That’s a sense many come away with after watching Wickham carry out.
Following is a hyperlink to images and a coaching session video of Aries Wickham. Photographs of Wickham by Larry Slater; video by Nicholas & Lence Communications.
Wendy Hilliard and WHGF
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Wendy began gymnastics at age 12. She educated by the Detroit Recreation Division with coaches from the previous Soviet Union. She was the primary Black athlete to signify the U.S. in worldwide competitors in rhythmic gymnastics and competed in three World Championships. In 2008 she was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Corridor of Fame. Following her aggressive and award-winning expertise as a world-class athlete and coach, Wendy acknowledged the shortage of gymnastic alternatives amongst city youth, which impressed her to launch the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Basis in 1996 in Harlem, New York, and expanded to Detroit in 2016.
As we speak, the Basis serves city youth between the ages of three to 17, serving to to enhance their bodily and psychological well being and offering numerous applications targeted on Well being & Diet, Sports activities Security to Profession Path Internships, Public Talking, and NYC Public College Admission Help. At WHGF, younger gymnasts find out about time administration, accountability, teamwork, management, and sustainable well being habits.
Final 12 months WHGF in New York Metropolis celebrated its 25th anniversary. WHGF is headquartered in Harlem and has a location in Hilliard’s hometown of Detroit, which opened in 2016. Since its inception, WHGF has supplied FREE and low-cost gymnastics to underserved communities, serving almost 25,000 city youth to this point.
All through the years, WHGF has developed elite athletes and aggressive gymnasts who’ve gone onto the nationwide and worldwide stage. BJ Mensah, from Harlem, competed in tumbling on the World Age Group Championships in Azerbaijan in 2021. Final November, Harlem’s ZaQuae Carter superior to the finals of the Males’s Tumbling Age Group 3 within the 29th Federation Worldwide Gymnastic (FIG) World Age Group Competitions. Carter completed seventh general throughout the November 23-26 occasion in Sofia, Bulgaria with an general rating of 23.900. Throughout this previous summer season Carter completed runner-up within the junior division in tumbling throughout the USA Gymnastics Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. In July 2022, rhythmic gymnast and Tenth grader Aries Wickham grew to become the primary Harlem athlete representing america in Israel on the Maccabiah Video games, the famend sporting occasion open to Jewish athletes from around the globe. Present Gymnastics Supervisor and WHGF head coach Alexis Web page was a three-time U.S. Rhythmic Gymnast Nationwide Workforce member and Worldwide Gold Medalist. Alexis Web page joined the WHGF basis in 2003, and by 2012, she began educating to encourage younger gymnasts to chase after their goals, as she did. As well as, Niahlah Hope educated at WHGF from 2002 to 2010 and is now knowledgeable Hollywood stunt double, together with within the movie Black Panther, whereas Olivia Boisson educated on the WHGF rhythmic gymnast crew and is now knowledgeable dancer at New York Metropolis Ballet.
Photograph credit score: Aries Wickham performs within the Maccabiah Video games. by Larry Slater