WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. (CBS4) – The summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro are only two years away. If things go as planned, a promising young gymnast from Colorado might be representing the U.S. Her name is Polina Shennikova, the daughter of proud Russian immigrants.

Alex and Katia Shennikova grew up in the old Soviet Union and were both raised as gymnasts,. For them, gymnastics wasn’t as much a sport as it was a lifestyle.

Alex and Katia Shennikova (credit: CBS)

Alex and Katia Shennikova (credit: CBS)

“Both parents were gymnasts; mom and dad were on the national team,” Alex said.

“In our age it was different … definitely away from the family a lot,” Katia said of attending gymnastic camps.

Shortly after the couple started their own little family, Alex took a job in America.

“We decided to move in the middle of the 1990s. That was a real hard time in Russia at that time,” Alex said. “I got the opportunity to come here … we decided it would be good thing for us and our family.”

“Pretty much my dad was looking for a better future for me and my family,” Polina said.

Polina was their future – their first-born daughter. She wasn’t even a year old with the Shennikovas emigrated to the U.S. Now at the age of 16, she’s the future of U.S. gymnastics.

“I’m very thankful for that. I really don’t think I could have done it without them,” Polina said. “They just helped so much and I’m so happy.”

The Shennikovas coached in many gyms – from Texas to Utah – to Colorado Springs, before finally settling in at TIGAR Gymnastics in Wheat Ridge.

“We were looking around and we found this gym, and we thought it would be the best place for us,” Alex said.

It’s become their second home. Polina trains and attends school at TIGAR. It’s the same gym that houses Venezuelan Olympian Jessica Lopez.

“We have gymnast here at TIGAR who has competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Her name is Jessica Lopez, and when I watch her train in the gym she’s just really inspiring, and I’m really happy that I have someone to look up to like that,” Polina said.

Polina is well on her way. With the help of her parents she was good enough to make U.S. national team. Now she’s hoping to make the Olympics.

“My long-term goal is to make it to the Olympics,” she said.

She’s so focused on making it to the games in Rio de Janeiro, she named her dog “Rio.”

“She asked for a dog since she (began) talking; every Christmas she asks for a dog,” Katia said. “So finally we made the deal – if she could make the national team she could have a dog.”

Polina’s strongest event is the parallel bars and she trains four to eight hours a day surrounded by impressionable little girls who watch her every move.

“They are all amazing, they’re so sweet. I just love being with them, they just come up to me and give me hugs and ask me how my day is going,” Polina said.

Polina isn’t the only Shennikova with Olympic aspirations. Her 12-year-old sister Alyona is also on the fast track and shooting for 2020.

LINK: TIGAR Gymnastics


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