As the owner of Musical Designs, I’ve been privileged to meet many wonderful people over the years – for which I’m very thankful. Of course, it goes without saying that the gymnastics community is top-notch! Right now, I’d like to introduce you to an amazing young lady and a very gifted athlete - Elena Weaver.
This is her story:
When Elena was born, no one thought she would live very long, and they were almost positive she would not be able to walk, talk or think coherently. You see, Elena was born with a combination of disabilities due to cerebral palsy. Early on, rather than focus on her limitations, her parents encouraged Elena to dream. And dream she did! Through the love and support of a wonderful network of family and friends, Elena has accomplished much in her 29 years and in turn, she uses her achievements to inspire others.
Coached by her father, Elena became a Special Olympic athlete at the age of 18 and has competed both as a Rhythmic gymnast (ribbon, hoop, ball, rope, clubs) and an Artistic gymnast (vault, bars, beam, floor). She is a frequent gold medalist in Level 4, which is the highest level you can go in the Special Olympics. As her #1 fans, Elena’s parents (Ed and Linda) credit the Special Olympics for giving their daughter a life full of opportunity.
Last year, Elena was chosen to carry the Olympic torch into the stadium and to light the cauldron during the opening ceremonies at the 2009 Special Olympics Summer Games … truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and no doubt a very cherished memory.
Another exciting highlight in her gymnastics career occurred this past May 2010: Elena and three other Georgia Special Olympics rhythmic gymnasts were invited to travel to Athens, Greece to represent Georgia and the USA in the 2010 Greek National Games. During the 2-day competition, Team USA scored well, and Elena earned gold medals on Ball and Hoop and silver medals on Clubs, Ribbon and in the All-Around.
In addition to competing in the Special Olympics, Elena also competes in USAIGC’s rhythmic program (which is non Special Olympics). Over the years, her gymnastics skills have earned her many gold medals, and because of her dedication and growth in the sport, USAIGC named Elena Weaver their 2009 Athlete of the Year.
When she’s not training or competing, Elena’s other activities include being a Global Messenger for the Special Olympics of Georgia, an Athlete Ambassador on the Law Enforcement Executive Council, a volunteer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and as recently as a few years ago, Elena also enjoyed horseback riding! An active member of her church, Elena is also one of the leaders in their special needs choir called Little Light of Mine. While Linda directs the choir and Ed accompanies on the piano, Elena leads the congregation in worship through sign language.
My connection to the Weaver family began in late 2008 when Linda contacted me to produce “You Raise Me Up” as the floor music for Elena’s ball routine. Elena had chosen that song in particular because of its powerful and inspirational message. Through her choreographed routine, she symbolically says ”thank you” to all of the people in her life who continue to believe in her, encourage her, push her, and who love her so dearly. Needless to say, it was both an honor and a privilege to meet Elena through our mutual love of gymnastics! A few months after finishing the song, I was especially blessed to attend the 2009 State Summer Games where we met each other in person and where I also watched her compete.
In closing, I just want to say to everyone reading this post that I hope Elena’s story has inspired you to dream big! I’m including a few pictures of her ball routine, taken at the 2010 USAIGC National Rhythmic Gymnastics Competition:
1) Elena begins with a prayer
2) Grace and beauty shall follow her all the days of her life
3) She ends with a “challenge” to the judges and the audience
Congratulations, Elena, on your many accomplishments, both in and out of the gym! And thank you, too, for being a valued member of the Musical Designs family.