Nationally renowned local gymnast soars before hometown crowd
Jul 25, 2018 10:24AM
● By Josh Wood
Lundyn VanderToolen competing in junior Olympic gymnastics competition. (Photo/John Cheng, courtesy Julie VanderToolen)
By Joshua Wood | [email protected]
Utah gymnast Lundyn VanderToolen competed in front of a home crowd in the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City for the first time as a junior Olympic gymnast. She did not disappoint. VanderToolen finished third overall in the Hopes Classic on July 6 to advance to the national Hopes Championship on July 28. She also won the individual event title for the uneven bars, her favorite event.
“I like swinging,” VanderToolen, 12, said of the uneven bars. “It’s fun.” VanderToolen started gymnastics at the age of 5. She was inspired watching Team USA compete in the 2012 Olympics in London, of all places. She now trains at Olympus Gymnastics in South Jordan.
“When she was little, she was probably 7 at the time, I remember her coach saying to me, ‘She’s the whole package,’” VanderToolen’s mother Julie VanderToolen said. “I didn’t know what that meant because I didn’t come from gymnastics, my husband didn’t come from gymnastics.”
The sacrifices involved in training and competing have continued to pay off. Last year, Lundyn was named International Gymnast Magazine’s Junior Olympic Gymnast of the Year.
This time around, competing at the junior Olympic level in Utah for the first time was something special.
“Most people have one or two people cheering them on because they have to travel from all across the country,” Julie said. “When Lundyn’s name was announced, the whole crowd erupted. It was so cool. She had an amazing support system.”
So how does Lundyn focus with all that attention on her during a competition? “Sticky fairy feet,” Lundyn says to herself before starting a routine on the balance beam. And how does she reward herself after another successful competition, that third place finish that sent her to the national finals? “A bacon cheeseburger,” she said with a smile.
One thing that Lundyn and Julie want people to know about her is that she’s a normal kid. “I like to spend time with my family, bike, go camping,” Lundyn said. She also likes to play games with her family and swim. She lists her hobbies and favorite things in a bashful voice that barely crosses the room. The quietude of her demeanor reflects that calm focus Julie admires most in Lundyn’s gymnastics. That quiet, though, is contrasted by the strength she shows during each routine.
“She was born that way. It’s just who she is,” Julie said of Lundyn’s determination.
That special combination of skill, mindset and determination drives Lundyn to work hard for what she has accomplished. It’s a sacrifice that involves the entire family. “It’s not just me, it’s the whole family sacrificing for her to be able to live this dream,” Julie said. “It’s a huge sacrifice for her. They say gymnasts all have a boyfriend, and his name is gym. It’s true. She’s training 30 to 40 hours per week. For someone her age to sacrifice that much is huge, and for her sisters to say they’ll sacrifice for her too, it’s worth it.”
The work will continue for Lundyn and her family. There are many possibilities ahead, and Lundyn remains focused. As for her future goals, “I want to be a Red Rock,” Lundyn said, referencing perennial national contender University of Utah gymnastics team. After that? “I want to be a kindergarten teacher or a first grade teacher.”
Meanwhile, the best thing about gymnastics for Lundyn is “having friends and teammates that support you. And having fun.”