When Kendyl Stewart was 4, she remembers watching Olympic gold medal gymnast Dominque Dawes fly through the air, perfecting her routines.
“I remember seeing the way she could twist and turn her body, and I just thought it was so beautiful,” Stewart said.
Fast forward 14 years, and Stewart found herself standing on the top step of the podium, tying another gymnast for gold in the balance beam May 5 in Battle Creek at the USA Gymnastics Level 9 Eastern Gymnastics Championships.
“When they said first place, they announced the other girl I was tied with, so then I thought, ‘Wait, that’s my score.’ Then they called my name,” the Southfield-Lathrup senior said.
Then, as fate would have it, Stewart stayed on the top step, winning gold, this time by herself, in the floor exercise.
“Even then, I was shocked. I had the exact same face,” Stewart remembered.
She added that she entered the event just being happy to be there. Her goal since she was 7 was to compete at nationals. It takes a top-six finish in regionals to qualify, which is a competition with gymnasts from five other states.
“Just getting there was something special, in itself,” Stewart said.
Marcie Sink, who coaches Stewart in both events at the Farmington Gymnastics Center, said Stewart has a special talent.
“She has great natural ability to dance, so her routines are very clean, and she’s very confident as well, which helps when competing. She’s never scared. She knows what she has to do and gets it done,” Sink said. “She has natural talent, but she also works very hard at what she does.”
Jeff Pergament, who coaches Stewart on the bars and vaults, echoed those sentiments.
“She has a tenacity that, when she sets her mind on something, she does it,” he said.
Stewart trains more than 20 hours a week, and on the two days when she doesn’t practice, she still finds herself in the gym, as she coaches the pre-teen team.
With all of that, Stewart still carries a 3.86 grade point average and is heading to Central Michigan University next fall on a full scholarship. She plans to try out for the gymnastics team in June.
“I would absolutely love to do it,” she said of making the Chippewa team. “I don’t remember my life before doing gymnastics.”