World Champion Launches a Wheel Gymnastics Summer Camp in Chicago
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Gymnastics, Acrobatics, Fitness - low impact gymnastic sport for every age.We thrive to be inclusive with our wheel weekends. Our weekends are retreats, workshops, fun affairs, and clinics for everyone who is eager to experience Cyr or Gym Wheel with the Worlds' best coaches in both disciplines.
Wheel gymnastics world champion Wolfgang Bientzle has brought his sport to Lake View, launching a summer camp in which he trains teenagers to incorporate large double wheels in executing graceful gymnastic moves. The camp, which has attracted about 24 children, is been held at Sheil Park from Monday to Friday for six weeks. Bientzle said anyone can learn the basics of the sport in two minutes. Students strap their feet inside the bottom of the wheel and hold on to two handles on top. Then, they lean to one side and start rolling the wheel—and themselves—around.
“I was so nervous my first time. I was shaking,” said Mearieta Grace Clemente,15, on her third day of the camp. “You are like a hamster spinning in a giant wheel.” Like most campers, Clemente was hooked after her first day. “The smallest trick you achieve is like the world to you,” she said.
“I feel amazing.” Bientzle, 49, who has lived in Chicago for 12 years, still speaks with a heavy German accent projected from his 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame. “He’s a grizzly bear outside and a teddy bear inside,” said Tarreshea McGowan, who watched her son, Kendric, 10, train with Bientzle in the gym. She appreciates the coach’s compassion. Kendric started training with Bientzle three years ago, even before the summer camp started. A single mother of two, McGowan has had trouble making the monthly $190 training fee. On these occasions, Bientzle would waive the fee for Kendric, and sometimes even bought him lunch.
Bientzle has been a wheel gymnast for over 40 years. He started in Germany at the age of 6 and then began coaching the sport when he was 13. He has won eight world championship titles, 11 European titles, and 60 German titles. “From the age of 14, I won every single competition,” said Bientzle. He was able to beat every adult by then. “I was good enough. Even if I fell, others didn’t even have a chance to win.” Bientzle said when he was a little boy, people would ask what this boy is doing at the world championship. “It was fun to show them that a kid can beat them,” Bientzle laughed. His grace and proficiency are readily apparent. “The wheel is like an extension of Wolfgang’s body,” McGowan said. “He touches the wheel like a part of his arms. When he stands on the wheel, it’s like a part of his legs.” Julia Pohling, who has won 10 world championship titles in the sport, competed alongside Bientzle in 1995 in a different age group. She said everyone respects him, and he earned the Mengyi Jenny Sun July 31, 2016 nickname “Mr. Gym Wheel,” in reference to another name for the sport, which is also known as the German wheel. “I was the best in my class, too, but nobody called me Ms. Gym Wheel,” Pohling said. “When you are talking about Wolfgang, competing is just a small part.” Bientzle has devoted his life to wheel gymnastics, which he introduced to Cirque du Solei and Holiday on Ice, Pohling said. He coached more than 20 gymnasts to become world champions, and he established the USA team.
Bientzle stopped competing at 26, when he realized his limitations as the level of difficulty and risk in the sport increased. Pohling said there has been “nobody like him since.” Jackson Masada, 18, took third place in the 2015 world championship and is No.1 on the U.S. team. He started training with Bientzle at the age of 6. “You learned a trick and you practiced it 40 million times,” Masada said, laughing and rolling his eyes at the memory of Bientzle making him practice the same trick repeatedly until he eliminated even the smallest mistake. When Masada won his first title, Bientzle gave him a big hug. “All of the work paid off. I was overjoyed,” Masada said. “The U.S. team is only 7-year-old. Other teams need 20 years to achieve that,” Bientzle said. “Jackson gave his best at that day,” Bientzle said he puts his students’ safety first. Kendric McGowan weighs about 85 pounds; the gymnastic wheels are about 70 pounds. His mother says that Bientzle can spot troubles before they happen. “If a child is about to fall, he can stop it,” she said. “I trust Wolfgang with my son’s life every day.” Kendric was in a group of students whom Bientzle took to Japan on Wednesday for a week-long exchange program. It was the boy’s first time abroad. “Wolfgang gives him a reason to buy a passport,” McGowan said. “My son was an extreme introvert, and he really came out of his shell by doing this sport. He walks with his head up now, and he has a reason to.