By COLLEEN GAPUZAN
Whether they are doing back handsprings on the beam or doing shootovers on bars, senior competitive gymnast twins Lucia and Veiva Piner can show you how it’s done.
If anything, Lucia and Veiva Piner are the definition of perseverance. Competitive gymnastics involves immense flexibility, agility and strength, which require nothing but hard work and dedication. Committing almost fourteen hours a
week toward perfecting their floor, uneven bars and beam routines, the twins consider gymnastics to be one of their top priorities.
Considering that gymnastics does not run in their family, the twins took an unexpected plunge engaging in this rigorous sport.
Unlike most gymnastics prodigies, the Piner twins began their gymnastics later in the game, taking their first class when they were nearly twelve years old.
“One day, our parents saw a flyer at the YMCA and showed it to us, and we have never done a sport before and wanted to step out of our comfort zones, so we decided to try it out,” the Piners said. “We soon switched to Spirit Gymnastics and [perfected our art there].”
The twins found their passion in gymnastics almost instantly, not only for the challenge it represented but also to set an example for teenage girls.
“We fell in love with gymnastics because we love the feeling of working so hard at something. Finally completing a move is one of the best feelings and is so rewarding,” the Piners said. “Gymnastics also challenges us and helps us build up o
ur strength. Even though a lot of girls our age might not care much about strength, we believe that [personal strength] is a good [quality to possess].”
Having started late in the gymnastics circuit, the twins admit that they initially encountered minor difficulties. The Piners, though beginners, committed to long hours of practice and training with their coaches and team. Instead of viewing themselves as mere beginners, the twins worked hard to shed the beginner image and improve themselves as gymnasts.
“It was [difficult to catch up in terms of flexibility,] so we [focused on that aspect],” the Piners said. “However, it balanced out since we had prior natural strength.”
In order to build up their strength outside the gym, the twins work consistently at home as well.
“We have mats at home and we practice our handstand holds to increase our strength,” the Piners said. “We test how long we can hold our handstands and try to beat our previous records. In addition, we have a set stretching routine to practice our splits to enhance our flexibility.”
One goal the twins are working to accomplish is being able to complete a full-twist: a very advanced gymnastics move consisting of the gymnast creating a 360-degree rotation. According to the twins, accomplishing a full-twist is the defining factor of a true gymnast, as it takes incredible strength and intense concentration to pull off a move so complex. To achieve this coveted move, the training consists of tedious but rewarding factors.
“We start by practicing our round off back handsprings and go up to a layout. Then, once your layout is high enough to where it needs to be, we practice on the trampoline. On the trampoline, we would begin doing half turns and once we’ve perfected that, we’d try to do our full twist.”
According to the twins, they kept training until they were ultimately ready to compete. After an immense amount of classes and practices, the twins soon found their love for the uneven bars and floor.
“One of our best events is the uneven bars because it features strength,” the Piners said. “It is very fast paced and is not only fun to perform but very enjoyable to watch.”
The Piners advise that with gymnastics and competing, it is important to have a good balance between school and practice.
“We try to do homework whenever we can, whether it be during lunch or in the car,” the Piners said. “We take advantage of our free time and use it to study and take notes, which we focus on during our breaks at practice.”
Gymnastics has not only made the twins stronger physically but also mentally.
“In gymnastics, much can be accomplished with the right mindset,” the Piners said. “It has greatly improved our work ethic because spending so many hours at practice forces us to use our time wisely.”
Despite their love for gymnastics, Lucia and Veiva consider it as just a hobby and do not plan on pursuing it professionally. They hope to attend Whittier College next fall, pursuing majors in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) field.
Lucia plans to major in physics and minor in computer science and eventually earn a master’s degree and a Ph.D, while Veiva aspires to pursue a computer science and math degree.
As the Piner twins work hard to train and compete, not only will they continue to grow as gymnasts, but also as well-balanced and disciplined individuals.