North Miami Beach Gymnast, 17, Hopes to Represent USA at Olympics

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Nerea Francis is hoping to reach new heights in the sport of rhythmic gymnastics. 

“I want to try to go to the Olympics. I’m working hard. I want to be able to go to world championships and international competitions and represent USA,” said Nerea Francis.

Last year, the North Miami Beach resident qualified for the National Team, but she’ll have to qualify again now that the Tokyo Olympics were delayed to 2021. The setback won’t deter the 17-year-old as she’s been flipping clubs, hoops, balls and ribbons since age five. 

“We were walking on the street and the owner of this business saw her and gave me an invitation to start,” said Nerea’s mother, Maria Francis. 

Maria says they joined the school of decorated Olympic rhythmic gymnast, Anna Bessonova, and never looked back. “She liked it and started an after school program but it ended up being part of her life,” said Maria Francis. 

With Covid shutdowns at the height of the pandemic, Nerea took her training out of the gym and into her backyard. She’s jumping through hoops to hopefully get to Tokyo, but it takes a lot of hard work behind the scenes. “I train four hours, six days a week,” said Nerea. 

There are long hours to get results and her coaches are a major part of the the process. 

“We are a team, coaches, gymnasts and parents. Nerea is a very hard working girl. She’s listening every time and I’m very glad to work with her because I can see improvement every day so I’m a proud coach,” said Nataliya Linnyk, Nerea’s coach at Bessonova’s School. 

The level 10 senior gymnast is also juggling being a senior in high school at Miami Arts Charter School in Wynwood. She graduates in June and instead of taking the summer off, her goal is to head to Tokyo. 

If that’s not enough, she also hopes to be an example for the next generation of rhythmic gymnasts. 

“I feel like I could inspire a lot of younger girls and help them achieve their dreams,” said Nerea. 

“I’m so proud. It makes me very happy to see what she has achieved,” said Maria.

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