World Olympic Gymnastics Academy is both crowded and busy at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday evening. And, yet, it is also strangely quiet, reflecting only the sound of intense concentration against a backdrop of squeaking equipment and the gentle thuds of landings. This gym is where you will find 11-year-old Lake Highlands resident Hollie Vise training every weekday morning and evening, as well as Saturday morning. Hollie trains at WOGA a total of 42 hours a week, which makes gymnastics essentially her full-time job.
Her commitment to the sport is paying off. The sixth grader is the youngest member of the Junior Division of the United States National Gymnastics Team, and currently holds International Elite Status, the highest level of gymnastic ranking. Barring any serious injuries in the next few years, Hollie’s prospects for representing the United States in the 2004 Olympics are very high.
“I started taking gymnastics when I was three years old,” says Hollie. “I would watch the gymnasts on TV and try to copy the moves at home.” Hollie’s mom, LeeAnn Gilliam Vise, enrolled her in a class at Metroplex Gymnastics, and her natural aptitude for the sport became apparent quickly. “She loved going to gymnastics,” explains her father, Eddie Vise. “We began to think she had a shot at doing something serious with this sport when she just kept winning.”
Indeed, Hollie progressed from a level 5 gymnast to a level 9 gymnast in just three short years, winning almost every competition along the way. She had achieved every available State and Regional title by the age of 10. While training at WOGA, she has sailed through four additional competitive levels to reach her current status.
Hollie’s day starts at the gym, where she trains from 8 a.m. until noon. In order to accommodate her intensive training schedule, Eddie and LeeAnn began home schooling Hollie three years ago. Hollie is tutored by her grandmother, a retired schoolteacher, four hours each afternoon. Then, Hollie returns to the gym for more training from 5 to 9 each night. Additionally, she works out on Saturday mornings. An exhausting schedule, to say the least, but Hollie loves every minute of it. “This is truly Hollie’s decision,” says LeeAnn, aware of the criticism often directed at parents of elite athletes. “This sport is in Hollie’s blood,” she says, “I’ve actually tried to get her to skip gymnastics before for various reasons and she just wouldn’t do it.”
Hollie’s coach agrees that her attitude is a large part of her success. “Hollie stands out because of her incredible effort,” says Evgeny Marchenko. He is Hollie’s head coach, and an owner of WOGA, which opened in 1994.
Hollie is also coached by Natalia Boyarskaya and Tatiana Schegolkova at WOGA, which boasts several national gymnastics team members, and recently acquired senior gymnast Vanessa Atler, currently ranked 2nd in the United States. Legendary coach Bela Karolyi is known to drop by the gym occasionally.
Hollie’s success comes with a price, undoubtedly. She works hard to maintain the friendships she built while still at Wallace Elementary. Her mother logs many hours on the road from Lake Highlands to WOGA. Eddie, a Mesquite firefighter, works a second job to help support Hollie’s efforts. “In total, we spend around $25,000 a year on gymnastics,” says Eddie, “but I never think twice about the cost — this is Hollie’s dream and I want to support her in every way that I can.”
If the pieces continue to fall into place for Hollie, we will be cheering our hometown girl as she turns her dream into a reality in 2004.