Flipping for the stars

Sophomore gymnast aims for nationals this spring


Krista Fleming

Sophomore Sydney Etufugh prepares to do a flip off the bar at Texas Dreams Gymnastics on Nov. 7. Etufugh trains her basic gymnastic skills every Monday, paying special attention to beam, which she believes to be her weakest of the four parts of the sport.

Heart still racing from a long day of tumbling, freshman Sydney Etufugh feels like collapsing once she makes it home, but four scribbled words call her away from her hot shower and awaiting bed. She walks toward the white board hanging on her wall and grabs a dry erase marker. One task remains undone: compete at Western Nationals. 

After years of training, she finally checked it off. 

Now a sophomore, Sydney is a level 10 gymnast who competed in Western Nationals last year and strives to make Nationals later this spring.

“I did other things as a kid, but they got boring [because] it was the same thing over and over again,” Sydney said. “With gymnastics, every year feels like a new sport [but] with the same basics. I can’t imagine doing anything else.” 

When Sydney was a hyper toddler, her mother encouraged her to release her energy by playing a multitude of sports, starting her career as a gymnast at 4 years old. 

“She locked onto gymnastics almost immediately,” Sydney’s mother Chinyere Etufugh said. “I always thought that it takes a few tries before you find your passion, so I didn’t expect her to throw everything she had into gymnastics so quickly.” 

Sydney trains and competes for Texas Dreams Gymnastics, where she spends roughly 4.5 hours a day working on skills ranging from basic techniques to tumbling passes and choreography.

“She’s very honest,” Sydney’s gymnastics coach Ned Lang said. “In this sport, you have to be honest. You have to be focused on trying to bring something to the table and have energy, all of which she conveys remarkably.”

The gym offers a homeschooling virtual path for all gymnasts, so long as they continue their intense training. After going through a long approval process with Lewisville ISD, Sydney worked out a schedule where she can spend the first half of the school day at the gym, go to Hebron for her last two periods, then head back to the gym to finish her practices, making her one of the only Texas Dreams level 10 gymnast to attend in-person schooling. 

“I wanted to ingrain in my daughter that she does gymnastics, but that’s not all she is,” Chinyere said. “It doesn’t encompass the totality of who she is. A lot of those girls get wrapped up in their identity as a gymnast and I didn’t want her to as well.” 

Because of her enhanced training as a gymnast and the large amounts of homework she has as an all honors and AP student, Sydney has denied many offers to join sports or clubs such as the cheer or volleyball teams. 

“[Gymnastics] prohibits me from having the full high school experience, but it’s worth it,” Sydney said. “I may not be able to join many clubs or any other sports, but I’m doing what I love. It can be irritating, but at the end of the day, being in gymnastics has shaped so much of who I am that I can’t help but owe it something.” 

Last year, Sydney made Western Nationals her first year as a level nine gymnast and competed against half of the nation’s best gymnasts. Her average score ended up being 37.775 out of 40. Now, her goal is Nationals. 

“That was when I knew I made it,” Sydney said. “That was my moment. There’s nothing like that feeling you get when everything you’ve worked towards pays off, and making Nationals might be the only thing that can top it.”