Locklear competes on the balance beam during Day 2 of the
2016 U.S. Women's Gymnastics Olympic Trials at SAP Center
on July 10, 2016 in San Jose, California. (photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty
Images North America)
The Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games is tonight
on NBC. Some throughout Indian Country and across the globe are
already looking ahead to Sunday afternoon as the U.S. women's gymnastics
team begins completion.
Ashton Locklear (Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina) will take part
in her first Olympic games as a non-competing alternate for Team
U.S.A. She traveled with her team to Rio de Janeiro Brazil after
finishing with the second highest score in the uneven bars behind
Madison Kocian in San Jose California at the Olympic Trials in June.
Kocian ended the trials with the highest overall score of any competitor
at 15.900 out of 16.000.
"I was sad that I wasn't selected to be on the team, tears starting
falling down my face and then she called my name as an alternate
and I was so happy and still crying, but they were tears of joy,"
Locklear said in an email with NDNsports.
Locklear is a specialist on the uneven bars, winning five gold
medals since 2014 as she represented the United States in domestic
and international competitions. She was crowned national champion
in the uneven bars in 2014 at the World Championships in Nanning
Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin met with Olympic gymnast Ashton
Locklear at her home gym in Hamlet, N.C. Godwin congratulated
her on her recent successes, especially her selection as a
member of the US Olympic Team.
After sustaining a shoulder injury in 2015 Locklear went through
an intensive physical therapy process. Despite her injury she ended
2015 with a second place finish at the U.S. Championships in the
uneven bars competition in 2015.
Locklear returned to world champion status in 2016 as she took
home four straight gold medals. She topped off a successful year
by punching her ticket to the Olympics in Rio with a silver medal
at the Olympic Trials.
"It has been a whirlwind," Locklear said.
Unless one of her five starting teammates sustains an injury
or comes down with an illness before the start of Olympic competition
Sunday, Locklear will remain on the sidelines at this year's games.
However she decided to forego NCAA eligibility for the time being
to continue to pursue her dreams of an Olympic gold medal.
The Native American community is a piece of who Locklear is.
She remains inspired by the youth of Indian Country and hopes to
continue to be a roll model in the community.
Despite her rigorous schedule, Locklear recently found time
to attend the Lumbee Homecoming Pow Wow at the University of North
Carolina at Pembroke in late June. She signed autographs and spoke
with local Native communities about remaining strong and working
hard to achieve their dreams.
"I remember when I was a little girl being so inspired by the
role models that I looked up to, so to know that I am that person
to young Native Americans really touches my heart, Locklear said.
"I want to be an example of someone who believes that setting goals,
working hard and never giving up does pay off and that your dreams
can come true. The native youth inspire me too. I want to let them
know I am carrying Native America in my heart to Rio."