Mark Lane

It can be a difficult thing to balance so it is a good thing Stefani Catour is a gymnast.

Catour is working to get better now with an eye on the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

If she gets too far ahead of herself, thinking about what could be instead of focusing on the next event, she just might tumble.

“I think about the Olympics because it is the ultimate goal, but there is so much work to do before I can even get there, that I can’t let it be all that I am focused on,” the Ahwatukee Foothills resident said. “I have to put the work in now so I can work for that later.”

Catour, who turns 14 on July 28 and will be a freshman at Horizon Honors in the fall, is well on her way after being named the Arizona gymnast of the year and is a member of the USA Gymnastics National Team training squad while training out of Desert Lights in Chandler.

She will compete, and will be joined by Mykayla Skinner of Gilbert, also of Desert Lights, this weekend in Chicago at the CoverGirl Classic in preparation for the Visa Championships in Hartford, Conn., Aug. 10-14.

The big event is the Visa Championships, also known as the USA Gymnastics’ national championships. As a junior elite international competitor, Catour, who trains at Desert Lights in Chandler, has a shot at becoming a member of the USA National Team and compete internationally in junior (age 13-15) events.

The top eight, or maybe more, will be selected to the USA National Team.

It would put her in prime position to be one of the top candidates to qualify for the 2012 Olympics once she reaches senior (age 16 and older) elite level.

Lisa Spini, the founder and coach at Desert Lights, said her pupil’s level of success was put in place a long time ago.

“She has been coming to us since she was a preschooler,” Spini said. “It was evident early on that she was physically talented, but being successful at the level she is at now is more than being physically gifted. She had to be willing and able to work hard. Mentally you have to be strong enough to work through the ups and downs.

“Stefani has exhibited all of the aspects needed to be an elite gymnast.”

It doesn’t mean that Catour hasn’t had to overcome obstacles in her career, mostly two knee surgeries. The second one came not long before the US CoverGirl Classic last year. She won the all-around, vault and balance beam events to give her a presence on the national scene.

“I had to work hard to get back and I did everything I could to win it,” Catour said. “I feel like I have been getting better each year and I am at my best.”

Spini said being an Olympic team member isn’t just a pipe dream.

Catour has to get better in the years to come in all aspects of the sport, but has a chance to prove in the coming weeks that she is one of the leading candidates in 2012.

“She actually does have a shot,” Spini said. “She is a very good all-around gymnast. If she doesn’t make the Olympic team then she will have a good shot at the World Championships.”

Desert Lights also had two other Ahwatukee residents receive state honors recently as Alisa Murphy and Brittany Yee were named Level 6 Gymnasts of the Year.

“Alisa is going to move on to Level 8 and is in line to be a top team member for USA Gymnastics,” Spini said. “Brittany has been with us since she was a preschooler, done real with us and will probably move on to cheerleading.”

With the state awards doled out, the focus turns to the Desert Lights girls heading to the national events.

“They’ve done the work,” Spini said. “Now, it is time to perform.”

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