It’s 5:30 p.m. Monday — a half-hour before even his coach has arrived at the gym — and 15-year-old Hans Decker has already broken a sweat.
Decker, who just won third place in the Level 5 state all-around gymnastics competition over the weekend, couldn’t wait to chalk up his hands and prepare for next year.
“Hans is the perfect example of the competitive drive more kids should have,” said coach Collin Godkin, who works with Decker two days a week at the Gorge Gymnastics center in Hood River.
“It’s a pretty unique situation because most kids his age are trying to do so much. But he loves it and he has the next three years all figured out for himself,” he said.
He’s off to a pretty good start, too, with Saturday’s performance at the Oregon Gymnastics Academy in Beaverton. Besides taking third in the all-around, he also took home a gold medal in the rings and a bronze in the parallel bars.
“I don’t have a favorite event,” said Decker, who scored a 9.2 to take the rings title. “I want to do well at them all. But I was especially happy with my performance on the rings at state. That showed me I could compete with the best.”
Godkin said Decker is very self-motivated, and despite having to train alone most of the time, he is driven to excel.
“I’ve never had a kid ask me so many questions,” he said. “He’s mostly interested in how he can improve in competition, and it shows that he really wants to be the best.”
Decker, a ninth-grade home-school student, said that it can be challenging at times to keep himself going since there aren’t many kids his age involved in competitive gymnastics.
“It would help to have some of the other top guys around to help motivate me,” he said. “That way I would always have a reminder about the level I’m trying to reach.”
Decker said his next goal is to compete at Junior Nationals and then try his hand at collegiate gymnastics.
“I’d like to find a school with a gymnastics program, but academics are just as important,” he said.
To prepare for the next step, Decker will continue to refine his skills every Tuesday and Thursday at the HR Sports Club.