“What are you doing, Carmen? Doesn’t it hurt?”
“No mom, it doesn’t hurt, it feels normal,” replied Carmen while she was seated in the floor with her legs wide opened from left to right. She was only 4 years old.
Eleven years later, Carmen never imagined that ability was going to lead her to become a national champion and a potential world-class gymnast.
But behind a champion there is a life of sacrifice and a shy girl who wants to succeed and improve her family’s life.
Since she was little, Carmen and her family experienced poverty, hunger and lack of opportunities. Her parents struggled with a difficult marriage and they seemed helpless. Her father didn’t have enough money to raise three kids and life was getting harder.
When Carmen was 6, her mother heard there was a Compassion’s church partner near her home that provided support for people in need, and she immediately enrolled Carmen in the program.
“When Carmen joined the Compassion program, she had malnutrition and was very shy; however she was always showing what she can do with her legs and pirouettes; I was terrified to see a little girl so flexible and without pain! And we noticed that Carmen was happy doing that and we encourage her mom to look for places where Carmen could show her abilities!” expressed María, Carmen’s Compassion tutor.
One day, after the project, God had prepared a way to make Carmen known. She saw some girls from a gymnastic club jumping and doing contortions with a trainer. She immediately wanted to join this club.
“The teacher said it was only for skilled girls,” said Carmen’s mom, “and Carmen started to jump and show her skills. The teacher was very impressed but I didn’t have the money to enroll her in that club; however she was granted a complete scholarship because she was really good!”
From that moment on, opportunities started to show up. Carmen was 10 years old when she officially joined a gymnastic club and trained there for three years.
“I was very happy when I started to train in that club. I met many talented girls and we started to compete in different parts of Lima. It was during one competition that I met a trainer and she said to my mom that she wanted to take me to the Peruvian Gymnastics Federation!” said Carmen. “I was terrified.”
Carmen’s mom accepted and Carmen started to train at the federation for free. At the beginning, she only trained twice a week; and as she was gaining more skills and experience, her training increased to four days a week and then the whole week.
“I was very happy to practice every day but at the same time I was sad because things are home were not easy. My dad didn’t make much money and I started to miss the trainings as we didn’t have more money for transportation.” Shared Carmen. “So I was thinking to give up on this sport and find a job to help my parents.”
“I remember Carmen was very sad; she told me she couldn’t continue with gymnastics because her parents didn’t have money to pay for her transportation. But we told her to go on, that God would provide for her if He was leading her way,” said Maria, Carmen’s tutor.
The Compassion project staff was aware of Carmen’s skills. It was not a hobby; something had to be done to keep Carmen in this career as she was serious about that. Thanks to the Compassion support, Carmen received a budget for her transportation to the federation and special meal, and Carmen was able to continue her training. Carmen wakes up every day at 6:00 a.m. to go to school, then she goes to the project for her lunch and after that, she goes to the federation to train from 4:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Her time to play and spend time with her school friends or doing homework is limited now. But she has learned to manage her time well.
In 2017, she was selected to participate in the South American Games in Ecuador and November 2017, she competed in the national championship of rhythmic gymnastics and won gold medals in the following categories: hoop, ball, ribbon, clubs and group routine; becoming the national junior champion in this sport. However this title has not changed who she is; she is still humble. And among her gymnast friends, Carmen is the only one with limited resources. But, who are behind Carmen’s achievements?
“God and my family. God has done so much in my life. He is helping me to overcome my fears and shyness and I am better every day. I am who I am thanks to Him.” Said Carmen. “I am also thankful to my parents because they make an effort to cook my lunch every day very early in the morning and pick me up late at night when I finish my trainings.”
Carmen’s dad works in construction but he only has temporary jobs. Her mom is a housewife who is dedicated to raise her children and in this time, to encourage and support Carmen. The whole family is Christian because they have not only heard but seen God’s love in Carmen’s life and in their own lives. Their marriage is stronger now and both parents support Carmen.
“We are committed to support Carmen in this sport,” said Carmen’s mom. “We have economic limitations but we are thankful for her skills. We cannot give her a nice house, we cannot give her money or new clothes, but we give our support and time to see her bright. She likes this sport, and we will do anything to support and see her happy.”
“Since I saw my little girl doing some contortions and stretches, I knew she was going to stand out,” said Carmen’s dad. “We always tell her to pray to God and give Him the honor in everything she does.”
Her parents are the primary supporters for Carmen, but the federation, the church and the sponsorship have also her back.
“We have seen Carmen’s skills; she has a great potential and for that reason she is here. The federation will always provide free training for her and we are committed to see her grow; and we are thankful because she is humble and is willing to learn from us,” said Maricela, her current trainer.
It is not easy to keep training. Some days, money is scarce at Carmen’s house. Sometimes her dad doesn’t get any job, but Carmen keeps jumping in faith with the support of the project.
“I am thankful to the project because they have cared about my physical and spiritual health;” said Carmen. “They provide me with balanced meals and cover my medical needs too. They are always reminding me that with God I can go on. It is here where I receive the spiritual training I need before going to my physical training.”
The life of the national champion is not easy, but she is perseverant. Carmen is the only Christian gymnast at the federation and she is sharing God’s love with her teammates.
“I know God brought me here to share His love while I enjoy being free doing gymnastics,” said Carmen.
What is next in Carmen’s life?
God is opening a new door for her. After the trip in Ecuador, Carmen has been selected among the best 4 gymnasts of Peru to receive specialized training. She has also been selected to participate at the 2019 Pan American Games that will be held in Lima, Peru, where 41 countries will participate. If she wins in these games, she qualifies to participate in the 2020 Olympic Games. Yes! Ladies and gentlemen; the junior champion of rhythmic gymnastics in Peru is a Christian girl sponsored by Compassion International who is being released to spark the light in this world in Jesus’ name. When God opens a door, nobody can close it; even the force of poverty can’t be an obstacle for God’s purpose.