Gymnast improving by leaps and bounds; TTHS graduate currently ranked 52nd in nation
Floriston resident and Tahoe-Truckee High School graduate Karl Ziehn recently sprung to 52nd at the National Gymnastics Championships in Orlando, but with a new coach and a practice schedule which includes five hours of training per day, he’s hoping to vault even higher in the standings at next year’s championship.
“Next year I’m hoping for a top-10 at nationals,” said Ziehn Monday during a break in his training at High Sierra Gymnastics Club in Reno. “I’m sticking with gymnastics and I’m only going to take three classes at UNR (University of Nevada, Reno) in the fall so I’ll have time to train.”
Ziehn, 18, competes in gymnastics’ Junior Elite One division, which is one level below elite senior competition.
“Junior Elite One is the highest a gymnast can go except for the senior team,” Ziehn said. “I can compete for one more year in Junior Elite One; then, I’ll probably move up to the senior competition.”
Ziehn qualified for the national meet by placing seventh at the regional meet, which encompasses gymnasts from California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii.
“I was happy with 52nd because I had been 125th the year before,” Ziehn said. “I had expected to be around 60th or 70th place.”
Ziehn attributed much of his improvement to his new coach, Liao Hua-yu, who has been working with the High Sierra gymnast for about a year.
“I’ve improved tons with Coach Liao,” Ziehn said. “He has been a national team coach for China and the Iranian Olympic team coach – he’s really good.”
Ziehn’s best events are the floor exercise and high bar. In order for Ziehn to move up in the standings at nationals, he said he needs to improve in several other events.
“I need to get stronger on rings, more consistent on the pommel horse and perform a bigger vault,” Ziehn said.
Because male gymnasts peak later than female gymnasts, Ziehn said he has several years to perfect his routines.
“Usually, male gymnasts reach their peak between 22 to 25; two guys on the national team last year were 26,” Ziehn said.
Ziehn, whose daily training includes an hour of strength training and four hours of apparatus training, has been involved in gymnastics since he was a kindergartner.
“I started him in gymnastics when he was in kindergarten because he was climbing on everything,” said his mother, Debbie Baldwin. “He had natural talent and by the time he was in the first grade he was on the club’s team.”
Ironically, Baldwin became so interested in Karl’s newfound interest in gymnastics that she eventually became the owner of High Sierra Gymnastics Club.
“Gymnastics really took over our family; I love to sit and watch the sport,” Baldwin said. “I think the sport has been good for Karl. He was a real ‘space cadet’ when he was young, but he just finished school with a 3.6 grade point average. Gymnastics has really given him focus and discipline.”
Ziehn, who hopes to transfer to University of California, Berkeley, in the future and compete on the school’s gymnastics team, said it didn’t really bother him too much that most of his classmates at TTHS didn’t realize how accomplished he is in gymnastics.
“All of my close friends respect gymnastics,” Ziehn said. “At times, I would’ve liked something to be said, but I don’t really care – I never hung out with the football jocks. But sometimes it’s nice to get recognized.”
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