Gold Medal Gymnast Kayla Williams Returns to School

By: Carrie Cline; Randy Yohe; Associated Press Email
By: Carrie Cline; Randy Yohe; Associated Press Email

UPDATE from 5pm Friday 10/23
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Kayla Williams may be a world class gold medal gymnast, but she's also still a high school student.

And sometimes being a teenager and a celebrity is a challenging mix. We caught up with the new world champ Friday for her first day back to school and a glimpse at that delicate balancing act.

Kayla made U.S. history, becoming the first American to win a world vault title. It's an honor her high school that Huntington High, the city of Huntington and West Virginia couldn't wait to celebrate.

“I'll watch the Olympics and say I know Kayla -- I went to high school with her," said Forrest McGuire, one of Kayla's classmates. "On behalf of all the students at Huntington High, we’re proud to know you.”

Cabell County Schools Superintendent William Smith said, “It's a wonderful thing. I think it was a surprise to all of us to have someone internationally recognized from Huntington High School.”

Huntington Mayor Kim Wolfe proclaimed Friday as "Kayla Williams Day, saying, and West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin also applauded Kayla's accomplishments.

“As governor, I applaud Kayla's achievements," he said.

Tammy Stollings with Manchin's office said, "She is a true world class athlete and role model.”

It was enough to bring even the most disciplined of athletes to tears.
For Kayla, it's all sinking in -- the hours, days and years spent toiling in the gym are finally paying off.

“I tell her every time she goes out, when you're on the floor, you're by yourself, but it was a lot of people who got you there,” said William Williams, Kayla’s dad.

“I want to thank my parents and my friends. You all are the most important thing to me and I couldn’t have done this without you,” Kayla said. “I am excited to be back. I haven't had lunch with my friends in about a month, and I'm looking forward to that. I have a lot of schoolwork to catch up on, so I have to get back to class."

The classroom is another place where Kayla excels. Despite the training and traveling in gymnastics, she's managed to maintain an A average.

“It's not easy," she said. "I get up, go to practice, come to school and go back to practice."

But, this 16-year-old-isn't all work and no play.

“If the situation presented itself, with all that you have on your plate, would you have time for a boyfriend?” asked WSAZ.com's Carrie Cline.

“I think if the situation presented itself, I’d make time,” Kayla responded.

But, this golden girl never settles -- studying her performance and perfecting the perfect.

“I'm normally very critical about my performance, but that one was as perfect as I can do it,” Kayla said of her gold medal vault performance in London.

Kayla says she’s already entertained several marriage proposals since her new status. She’ll spend the next several months at national training camps and resume her competition schedule in February.


UPDATE: Friday 10/23

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Kayla Williams returned to her home turf Thursday night.

Williams who won the gold in the vault at the World Gymnastics Championships last weekend in London was greeted by every student at Bozhi’s Gym Nest where she trains.

After her warm welcome, Kayla got right back into her practice routine.

Friday morning, Huntington High is holding a pep rally in her honor.

You can watch tape-delayed coverage of the World Gymnastics Championships this weekend on WSAZ NewsChannel 3. Saturday's coverage begins at 1:30 p.m.

UPDATE: Wednesday 10/21

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) --Gold medal gymnast, Kayla Williams returned home Tuesday night to a hero’s welcome.

Williams arrived at Yeager Airport in Charleston, sporting the gold medal she won in the vault at the World Gymnastics Championships in London.

The 16-year-old student at Huntington High is the first American to win gold in the vault at the World Championships.

Williams says her confidence grew the further she got into the completion.

On Friday, Williams will be honored with a pep rally at Huntington High.

UPDATE:
LONDON (AP) -- Huntington's Kayla Williams is taking home quite a souvenir from her first international competition.

Saturday morning, Williams won the women's vault title at the world gymnastics championships, just five months after she was competing at the level below elites.

The 16-year-old student at Huntington High School had a combined score of 15.087 for her two vaults, putting her well ahead of Switzerland's Ariella Kaeslin and Youna Dufournet of France.

It's the second gold medal at these worlds for the Americans, and their first ever on vault.

Earlier Saturday, Romania's Marian Dragulescu won the men's floor title.

ORIGINAL STORY:
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A local athlete is gearing up for competition across the pond.

For gymnast Kayla Williams, a win this weekend locks in a solo spot on the United States team.

Kayla practices locally here at Bozhi's. Hrabrina Spencer, a trainer there, says she expects Kayla to win.

Going into this weekend's finals, the Huntington High School honor student is ninth overall on the floor exercises and first place on the vault.

The girls that train along side Kayla say you can't find a better role model. Young gymnast Hanna Spence says, "When people see how much she practices: they're floored."

If you want to watch the competition live online, head over to the Featured Links section of our webchannel. There's a link there that will take you right to the page.


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