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 mornings. Hollie trains at WOGA more than 40 hours weekly, making gymnastics essentially a 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 holds International Elite Status, the highest level of gymnastic ranking.
Barring serious injuries during the next few years, Hollie’s prospects for representing the United States in the 2004 Olympics are excellent.
“I started taking gymnastics when I was three years old,” Hollie says. “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,” says 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 three years, winning almost every competition along the way. She achieved every possible State and Regional title by the age of 10. While training at WOGA, she 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. Her grandmother, a retired schoolteacher, tutors Hollie four hours each afternoon.
Then, Hollie returns to the gym for more training from 5-9 p.m.
“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. 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,” Evgeny Marchenko says. He is Hollie’s head coach and an owner of WOGA, which opened in 1994.
Hollie also is 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. She works hard to maintain the friendships she built while 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,” Eddie says, “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.”