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Paige Pretorius: Preparing for Perfection

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When the Sun covered the accomplishments of gymnast Paige Pretorius last year, she was 12 years old and brand new to level 10 gymnastics. Now, she is a year older and in her second season of competing at the highest pre-college rung of the sport. The fact that she is already participating in this class of athletics and will continue to do so for years to come bodes well for her potential with the sport. Her mother, Susan Pretorius, discussed how quickly the athlete had developed up until this point.

“Just putting her in a regular recreational class just for fun,” said Susan. “They noticed right away that she was able to pick up the skills, perfect them, and master them so quickly. So, she was not in recreational gymnastics but a couple of months and they invited her to team. Even back then, it was like she kept getting better and better. So, she tested out of several levels […] We kept seeing her progress so much quicker than her peers.”

Her time and effort have already borne fruit. She went from placing fourth in regionals in her age group a year ago to second in the Region 8 Championship in April of 2024. She also earned second place on beam and third on floor. In doing so, Paige has qualified once again for the Development Program National Championships in May and set multiple personal best scores on all four events: bars (9.650), vault (9.525), beam (9.875), and floor (9.825).

The talented young gymnast scored highly enough in beam to place ninth across all age groups in “America’s Top 100.” Paige competed in five regular season meets, four of which she placed first all around and second in the other. The Junior A All Around State Champion also won individual state titles on beam and floor while being a silver medalist on vault.

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These accomplishments are not by accident either. She has made many sacrifices to climb the ranks in the gymnastics world including foregoing vacations and parties, being homeschooled, and traveling an hour to Tampa to train for five hours a day. This is crucial to her development as Paige’s coaches have continued to emphasize that skill alone is not enough. You need the right mindset.

Fortunately for the young gymnast, that is not an issue. “She has a really strong will. It is like no other,” Susan Pretorius said. The passion and pride in her mother’s voice was palpable as Paige’s mother effusively praised her daughter’s work ethic and desire to win.

The 13-year-old has continued to evolve her routine over the course of the season by adding more difficult and higher-valued skills that raise her start value from 10.0 to 10.1 (known as E-skills). She has included multiple E-skills such as a Piked Jaeger on bars with a Double Layout dismount. The younger Pretorius’ routine also features an upgraded vault of a Yurchenko Layout Full on vault while retaining her triple series on beam (a back handspring-layout-layout) and an E-skill Front Pike. She also has an E-skill on floor being a front double full while her 2 ½ Twist into a Punch Front Tuck is worth a 3/10 bonus.

What is most impressive about these actions is that “most people [her age] do not have a 10.1 start value” because “they are not doing these difficult skills,” her mother said. These abilities are so advanced, Paige’s coaches have told the family that the athlete’s routine is essentially college-level already.

Growth never stops, though. Paige is always looking to refine aspects of her routine, namely her skills. Despite her aptitude, the young athlete is still looking to improve. She will continue to work on her game with her “amazing” coaches Jeff LaFleur, Alecia Pollina-Morales, and Joes Morales at LaFleur’s Gymnastics in Tampa. To the gymnast’s advantage, though, there is not much more she needs to add to her routine. Now, it is mostly just about perfecting her craft.

“There is really not a lot left for her to do except just continue to perfect the skills and continue to make her name in the gymnastics world by getting higher scores or maybe continue to get on ‘America’s Top 100’ for her other events, get tens, and things like that,” said Susan. “It is all about perfection at this stage.”

Paige Pretorius competing in balance beam. [Photo courtesy of Susan Pretorius]
Paige Pretorius competing in balance beam. [Photo courtesy of Susan Pretorius]

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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