Justin Calip was intrigued by ballet when he was 2 or 3, and his mom signed him up for a class.
“When I went to the place, I saw the gym and said, ‘I want to do that,’” the 11-year-old Masury boy said.
“That” was gymnastics, and do it, he has. Justin has received medals in every boys gymnastics event over the years since he started competing as a first-grader: high bar, rings, floor, pommel horse, parallel bars and vault.
“I took to it right away,” the fifth-grader said.
Not that it has remained easy.
“Right now, it’s pretty tough,” Justin said. “The skills are definitely getting harder as you go up in level.”
The training regimen also is tough: he trains three hours a day, four days a week during the school year at Ohio Gymnastics Institute, Austintown. Once school gets out, it’ll be six days a week, with some two-a-day workouts.
Justin considers pommel horse and vault his best events.
“I like vaulting because it’s a really quick event,” he said. “Pommel is fun, swinging on the horse. It doesn’t take as much upper-body strength.”
“I like watching him on the floor,” said his mom, Alyssa Vaughn. “It’s not his favorite, but I think he has the nice, clean lines.”
Justin competes six to eight times a year, primarily in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, and he took home the gold medal in vault at the Boys State Gymnastics Championship in March in Toledo, He finished eighth in pommel horse.
“He has been as far as Las Vegas” for tournaments, Vaughn said.
Justin, who trains with Ron Ferris, has reached an age where boys start quitting gymnastics to do other things, and he was the only member of the Level 6 team this year. It’s also an age where teasing comes into play.
“Sometimes, my friends call it a girls sport,” he said, something that his mom bristles at.
However, Justin thinks gymnastics might be his ticket to college, and he plans to stick with it. He even has Olympic dreams.
Even though Justin has been successful, Vaughn said he does fail at times and it humbles him.
“You have to know how to deal with that,” she said of failure. Justin said it motivates him to try harder.
Although gymnastics is a time-consuming activity – “It’s like a part-time job just getting him to gymnastics,” mom said – he has other interests, from competitive soccer to riding his bicycle and playing video games.
“He likes to have time to be a kid,” Vaughn said.