When Chelsea was born with Down Syndrome, the doctors said she would always have low muscle tone and there wasn’t much we could do about it. Chelsea didn’t start walking until she was almost 2 years old.
Around the age of 8, Chelsea started trying different sports. She tried soccer, baseball, swim team and gymnastics. The only one of these that seemed to interest her was gymnastics, so we signed Chelsea up for Special Olympics Gymnastics. They practiced once a week for about 2 hours.
After about 2 years of weekly gymnastics, we started to see a hint of talent. We decided she could use additional training and looked at local gyms. That’s when we found Dawn Pombo. Dawn wasn’t at all sure what Chelsea would be capable of doing, but she was willing to see past the typical stereotype. Dawn continued to challenge Chelsea and Chelsea continued to improve.
Northern California dropped their Special Olympics Gymnastics Program. Now what?
We decided to give USA GYMNASTICS a try. Unfortunately to compete in USA GYMNASTICS the minimum level of competition was quite difficult. Chelsea continued working hard year round and around the age of 13 finally had developed the skills required to compete in USA GYMNASTICS. We had no idea how tough the judging would be. For the first few years Chelsea usually took last place.
Then, Chelsea’s determination and persistence started to pay off. Chelsea’s skill set was growing, and she was getting more and more attention. In 2012 Special Olympics announced the first National Gymnastics Championships. With Chelsea’s training over the years with USA GYMNASTICS, she was ready. Chelsea won the National Championships and defended this title the following 3 years.
During this period, a producer from Argentina saw a You Tube video of Chelsea’s gymnastics. The producer represented Proctor and Gamble and in conjunction with Special Olympics International, Chelsea was flown to Buenos Aires, Argentina to film a commercial. The commercial aired throughout South and Central Ameriica for months.
In 2012, Chelsea was invited to compete in London for the first Down Syndrome International World Championship. The London Olympic Games had just taken place and there was excitement in the air. The opening ceremony was spectacular! Gymnasts from all over the world were coming together. Chelsea won every event including “All Around”. This was the first time Chelsea had represented USA and was so proud as the AMERICAN FLAG was raised and the American National Anthem played.
Towards the end of 2014 Universal Pictures in conjunction with the Today Show were looking for individuals who had overcome obstacles and were inspirational in the process. The movie “Unbroken” was being released and it featured the life story of “Louie” Zaperini. Louis was an Olympic runner and a WWII hero. It was a story of survival, inspirations, and resilience. Chelsea’s coach of many years, Dawn Pombo, submitted Chelsea’s story.
Chelsea story, along with two others, was chosen out of thousands. Chelsea’s life story was showcased on the Today Show.
Chelsea walked the red carpet at the famed Kodak Theatre in Hollywood for the premier of the movie “Unbroken”. It was very exciting. Chelsea met some World War II heroes which was very moving. Chelsea’s favorite part of the night was when Brad Pitt asked her to take a picture with him.
Nadia Comaneci, the best gymnast of all time, invited Chelsea to her Nadia Comaneci International Meet in 2015. Chelsea was showcased and performed with some of the top gymnastics in the world.
In November 2015, the second “WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP” took place in Mortara, Italy. The United States was well represented along with 22 other countries. Chelsea took Gold on uneven bars, Gold on vault, Gold on floor, Silver on beam, and Gold on the most prestigious “All Around”.
In early 2016, H&M offered Chelsea a spot for a campaign they were doing. The campaign would feature athletes who had overcome obstacles. A new sports/athletic line will be coming out the same time as the Rio Olympics Summer Games. It was a perfect fit for Chelsea. Chelsea was flown to Havana, Cuba to film.
In mid 2016, Chelsea was invited to walk in New York Fashion Week in September 2016. FTL MODA is known for promoting inclusion in the modeling, fashion, and entertainment industry. Once again a perfect fit for Chelsea.
There is no better time than now for Chelsea to advocate for anyone who has faced challenges in there lives. There are still many outdated misconceptions surrounding individuals with disabilities or special needs. If Chelsea can help change some of these misconceptions she is very proud!
Chelsea has always loved the spotlight so why not use it to promote inclusion and help others be given the opportunities they deserve.