Just recently, amateur Leeiah Destanee Davis was asked what are amongst her essential plans during the summer.
“This summer I want to go back to my hometown in Florida and get in the gym with one of my favorite gymnast, Derrian Goburne, and hope to run into Gabby Douglas,” Davis, during a recent interview, said while chuckling.
For Davis, a 10-year-old rising gymnast phenom who has enjoyed an array of success on the amateur circuit in recent years, it would be rather simple to grasp a thorough concept as to why she is destined to meet Douglas, who emphatically caught the sports world by storm when she became the first African-American woman to capture gold medals in both the all-around and team competitions in the 2012 Summer Games.
For starters, just like the young Douglas, Davis has proven to be just as big a gym rat, a trend that has ultimately has given way to a brutally immense work ethic, let alone a passion for the sport her parents initially discovered she embraced some five years ago.
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As Martha Tatham-Davis recalls, her then-baby daughter was seen jumping and tumbling off of virtually everything in their home that would suggests that this vibrant, happy-go-lucky kid was showing flashes that a future in gymnastics was essentially a foregone conclusion.
“My reaction was, ‘Oh my!’ Tatham-Davis explained. “God has given her an awesome gift and I want to encourage her to explore it.”
The rest, as they say, was history.
Five years removed from being caught flipping off of house furniture as her parents looked on in wonderment, Leeiah, to her credit, has enjoyed a wealth of success as an amateur gymnast, a trend that has afforded her the golden opportunity to put her skills on display even outside of the United States.
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Among the reasons is that Leeiah, a Winter Haven, Florida native whose family currents resides in Fort Meade, Maryland, made her competitive gymnastics debut in Europe — Vicenza, Italy to be exact.
That’s because Leeiah was — and still is — a military child, considering her father, Demetrius Davis, is a longtime soldier in the United States Army.
In fact, as Leeiah — who’s also competed briefly while living in Killeen, Texas — tells it, her continuous rise as a young gymnast would not have come full circle if not for the viable presence of her father who, according to her mother, endures what she describes as “separation anxiety,” particularly when her father is on assignment for the country.
“Leeiah is extremely close to her dad, and when certain things like separation anxiety sets in, gymnastics are her outlet,” Tatham-Davis said. “Nothing relaxes her like being in the gym, so it’s not just a past time for her, or something to do after school. It’s her therapy, it’s her job, and it’s her passion.
A student at Pershing Hill Elementary in Fort Meade, the 4-foot-10 Leeiah practices her craft as a gymnast for as close to 18 hours a week, according to her mother.
While often observing her daughter in action in the gym — or in her “sanctuary” of sorts, Tatham-Davis acknowledges — she even recalls a memorable encounter about which still brings her to smiles to this very day.
“The most memorable encounter would be watching her learn gymnast through the art of the sport itself due to the language barrier of beginning her career in a foreign country,” Tatham-Davis explained. “There is no limit, because God has blessed her infinitely. You don’t read about upcoming gymnasts that are a part of a military family every day. And while one might not think that’s a big component of her career, it truly is.”
Which, by all accounts, is among the grandest reasons that Leeiah — who is also an avid track and field standout — appears destined to leave it all out on the floor whenever she makes her much-anticipated presence in the gymnasium.
Whether in the states or anywhere else around the globe.
“I want to go to (the University of) Florida Gators for gymnastics or be a professional gymnast,” said Leeiah, explaining her future goals and ambitions. “It’s my dream to help take care of my parents and my brothers and sister. My dad is amazing. He is a soldier and he works hard for me so I want to make him happy with making good grades and follow my dreams.”
Something she hopes Olympic gold medalist phenom Gabby Douglas will hear about.
At some point in time.
Maybe, perhaps, this summer in Florida.
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Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.