The Fire Department closed their gym as unsafe, but that didn’t stop a team of young Brooklyn athletes from winning a statewide championship this month.
“I expected them to do well, but not to be number one in the state,” said Fritz Jean, the owner of Powerplay, the Third Avenue gym that sponsored the five-girl team. “They were competing against kids with full facilities.”
In January, the FDNY shuttered Powerplay, citing the lack of a sprinkler system and a secondary exit. The gym, which sits next to a beverage distribution company between Seventh and Eighth streets near the Gowanus Canal, reopened its top floor in February. But unfortunately for the gymnasts, who practice as much as 14 hours a week, their balance beam, uneven parallel bars, and vaulting horse were all on the first floor.
“With all the drama at the gym, we had to carpool,” said Joan Rivera, the mother of seven-year-old gymnast Rebecca. “I was renting Zipcars to go out to Aviator Sports in Floyd Bennett Field.”
The obstacles made the June 2 triumph in Westchester that much more thrilling.
“Oh, it felt so great,” said Henry Candelaria, whose 6-year-old daughter, Tatiana, is on the team. “It was so exciting. I showed everyone the photos!”
Equally euphoric was Rivera: “It was even more exciting than when she swept her first meet. She was much more excited about winning as a team. I heard her going, ‘This is great.’”
Level Four, at which the girls completed, is the competition’s entry-level. The levels go as high as 10, the caliber of gymnastics that makes it onto ESPN.