Long before making three Summer Olympic appearances, Dominique Dawes was taught to steadfastly shoot for the moon.
Fortunately for Caela Flake, Dawes inspired her to follow suit.
Clinging to lofty aspirations of someday appearing on sports’ grandest international stage, the 17-year-old Flake has made continuous strides on the amateur gymnastics circuit in recent years.
From her days of drawing rave reviews as a rising gymnast while representing Memphis and the Mid-South in recent years, to relocating recently to Virginia with her family, Flake doesn’t shy away from the notion that her tireless pursuit of following in the footsteps of Dawes is amongst her notable ambitions.
In many aspects, she admittedly has Dawes to thank.
A 2012 Tennessee state champion, Caela Flake trained intensely under Dawes when her parents, Derek and Sherita Flake, sent her to Maryland a few years ago to broaden her mechanics at the ex-Olympian’s facility.
In assessing her overall progress, Caela Flake acknowledges that having the luxury to train and upgrade her fundamentals under the direction of Dawes not only was a testament to how much her parents aspired to see her prosper, but it also enabled her to grab a firm hold of her passion for the sport.
Nowadays, though, it is a foregone conclusion that this vibrant, resilient young gymnast hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down in the foreseeable future.
If nothing else, Caela Flake — as Dawes had advised her time and again — is shooting for the moon.
“Yes it has inspired to shoot for the moon and even if I miss I’ll land among the stars,” Caela Flake, during a recent interview with MemphiSport, said of training with Dawes. “Also, she has inspired me to never give up and to seize every moment like how she had to do when she had to fill in for her injured teammate during the Olympics.”
The now-retired Dawes is widely remembered for being the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics and the first black person of any nationality or gender to win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. She is also one of only three female American gymnasts, along with Muriel Grossfeld and Linda Metheny-Mulvihill, to compete in three Olympics and was part of three Olympic medal-winning teams: Barcelona 1992 (bronze), Atlanta 1996 (gold), and Sydney 2000 (bronze).
Besides training with Dawes, Caela has met renowned Romanian gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi and has competed in various venues across the country, most notably Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama, Texas, and California.
In addition, this rising gymnast has participated in gymnastics camps at the University of Kentucky and the University of Alabama and, according to her mother, Caela Flake already been accepted to a college as she prepares for her senior year of varsity competition at John Champe High School in Aldie, Virginia.
Also, Caela Flake is currently coached by Macey Watson, a nationally-acclaimed boys training coach, as well by Annia Hatch, a 2004 Olympian and two-time silver medal winner.
Given the considerable progress, coupled with solid resume she has compiled on the amateur circuit in recent years, it’s safe to assume that Caela Flake’s track record is such that other schools are almost certain to inquire about her services.
“Her current coach is very instrumental in the recruiting process and he offers her guidance on what to do at the appropriate time,” Sherita Flake said. “She is currently sending introductory letters and preparing videos to submit for colleges. She received an invitation to attend the Southeast Missouri State’s Gymnastics Precision Camp this summer. She has also been recently accepted at Bowling Green State University. She has also received information from Ursinus (admissions sent her information via email requesting she plan a visit), Temple University (admissions sent her information via email requesting she plan a visit), and University of Wisconsin – Whitewater (coach requested a video).”
Caela is Flake is just weeks removed from having fielded an acceptance letter from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, news that brought her parents to smiles.
“We were excited,” Sherita Flake said. “We have told her to explore all options available to her.”
She’s doing just that.
Since her family’s recent move from Memphis to Virginia, Caela Flake once again has made her presence felt now that she’s routinely trains at G-Force Gymnastics Training Center in Ashburn, Virginia.
G-Force Gymnastics offer programs in both non-competitive recreational classes and competitive team, from beginner to elite. From 18 months to 18 years, G-Force has a program and series of classes with clear progressions and assessments that allow both the gymnast and the parents to follow along and track progress.
For Caela Flake, training at a tradition-rich establishment will only help propel her to immense heights on what undoubtedly is a competitive gymnastics circuit.
As always, however, she’s destined to embrace the assortment of challenges, much like her beloved mentor, Dawes, had done long before making her Olympic debut in 1992.
“I am so glad that I am at G-Force Gymnastics,” Caela Flake said. “I am learning so much and my coaches are working with me on perfecting my skills. I appreciate all of their insight and coaching.”
Not to mention their willingness to steadfastly help inspire her to shoot for the moon.
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Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.