USA earns bronze at 2013 Gym for Life World Challenge
July 12, 2013
USA Gymnastics
Chattooga, a 31-person performance group from Marietta, Ga., earned a bronze medal in the large group category at the 2013 Gym for Life World Challenge in Cape Town, South Africa. Based on their performance, Chattooga was awarded one of two wild card spots to participate in the Gym for Life Gala, where the World Gym for Life Champion will be determined and awarded the 2013 Bruno Grandi Trophy. The gala is scheduled for July 13.

Chattooga has 31 participants, who range in age from 11-73. The group's routine includes live music, provide by one trumpeter and two guitarists. In the large group category, 10 groups participated and three gold, four silver and three gold places were awarded.

Group performances are evaluated on entertainment value, overall impression, innovation, originality, variety and technique (quality and skill safety) by a panel of experts. All participating groups will be awarded either a gold, silver or bronze place. Groups who receive a gold place will participate in the Gym for Life Gala.

This is the second time the World Gym for Life Challenge, an event of the International Gymnastics Federation, has been held on a world level and is a contest for performance groups of all ages and genders. The group's routine may be up to five minutes in length, incorporate any gymnastic element; with or without apparatus, and accompanied by music. The Challenge complement the FIG's World Gymnaestrada and will be held every four years in between the World Gymnaestradas.

Royal Gala!
July 13, 2013
Federation of International Gymnastics (Gymnastics for All)

Ah that gymnastics can be beautiful when imagination, expressiveness, sensuality guide the body in motion!
Natural gymnastics, unashamedly, without constraints, with in mind just want to do well and if possible ... better than the neighbor! It is the spirit of the Challenge!

South African organizers of the SAGF were successful in their "coup" in all domains. In the opinion of the gymnasts themselves, will long be remembered Cape Town! Thank you the SAGF!

The 16 teams involved have shown great enthusiasm and as offering the best of themselves. Impressive demonstration of the Norwegian Fredrikstad (61 gymnasts), the acrobatics of Swiss Mendrisio, touching the delivery of U.S. Chattooga group, the grace of gymnasts Tallinn, freshness Golden Lions in South Africa. Each gymnast committed showed talent as he could and wowed the nearly 4,000 spectators.

Ultimately, it is the Gymnastics Club TS Goetzis Zurcaroh (AUT) that prevails and in a beautiful way. Their impressive acrobatics have won both the public delegations and evaluators. The Bruno Grandi Trophy will be Austrian for the next fours years! Congratulations! All the Gymnastcs Community is now looking forward to meeting together in 2017, in Vestfold, in NOrway!

Dancing on the world state: Group travels to South Africa for gymnastics exhibition
July 7, 2013
Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal

A group of 33 people from Cobb and other metro Atlanta communities is leaving today for South Africa to represent the United States in an international gymnastics exhibition.

With the support of USA Gymnastics, members of Chattooga School of Gymnastics and Dance in Marietta are heading to Cape Town, South Africa, for 13 days to compete in the world competition.

Gym owner Cindy Bickman, who opened the gym in 1976, said Gym for Life program holds its competition every four years. For this year's event, Chattooga was the only team chosen to represent the United States.

The trip is similar to many they have taken since 1983, giving students the chance to travel and showcase their talents. "Things like that have just presented themselves to us, so we take advantage of every opportunity that we can," Bickman said.

They will be competing in the "Gymnastics for All" event, which means everyone on the team, no matter their age, skill level or special need, is considered a competitor.

"We have people from ages 10 to 73," Bickman said. "Our philosophy at Chattooga is that everybody can participate so on our team we have competitive rhythmic gymnasts, Special Olympic athletes, recreational gymnasts, moms and dads, a photographer, trumpet and guitar players and Pilates students."

This year's routine is almost 4 minutes long and incorporates tumbling, swing dancing, acrobatic lifts, rhythmic gymnastics ribbons, hoops and other exhibitions. They are performing to two separate songs, "What a Wonderful World" and "Rock Around the Clock."

Performers excited about trip

Janet Misitano, an east Cobb mother, will be performing with her 27-year-old daughter, Dana. She was part of the first group of adults to start competing with the group.

"I've been going on Cindy's trips since 2003 with Dana," she said. They've traveled to Portugal, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Estonia and Greece.

Janet and Dana Misitano started at the gym after learning about Chattooga while registering for the Special Olympics 12 years ago. Dana Misitano was born with Down syndrome.

"It's very rewarding to participate with our daughters," Janet said about her and the other parents. "I feel blessed that we can do this and that Cindy has encouraged our girls to focus on the abilities they have been given, rather than the disabilities."

In this year's performance, they will be showcasing their skills with the ribbons.

Alison Lambright of Marietta also is going. The 19-year-old Mercer University student has been a member of the gym since she was 6 and will be playing the intro trumpet piece for the show, in addition to showcasing her long ribbon talents.

This will be her fourth trip with the Chattooga group. She's previously traveled to Austria, Switzerland and London.

She's enjoyed being a part of this group because it showcases the talents of everyone in the group, not just adults, professional gymnasts or special needs athletes.

"We truly encompass everybody and I think that really benefits everybody on our team, not just to make them better gymnasts but to make them better people," she said.

Atlanta resident Kara Jacobson, 43, has been a member of Chattooga since she was 8 years old. She, along with Melissa Hankinson, assisted with the team's choreography and coaching.

"The experience has been an amazing opportunity for all us," she said. "The mental, physical and emotional rewards are endless when we observe the joy and talent of the team."

She is traveling to Africa with her two daughters, Ariel, 12, and Katie, 10.

Another family from Fulton County, the DeMellos, is also excited about this year's trip.
Ana DeMello, 61, said her daughter Lani DeMello, 27, joined the gym in 2005 and is a Special Olympian who competes in rhythmic gymnastics. Lani was born with Down Syndrome.

This is the second competition that Ana DeMello and her husband, Don DeMello, have participated in. The first was in Austria four years ago.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think after Lani was born that we would be traveling all over the world showing everybody in the world that just because you are born with some kind of disability you don't have to stay in the closet," Ana DeMello said.

Lani DeMello said what she's looking forward to the most with this trip is that she'll get to celebrate her July 10 birthday at the competition.

"It's so much fun and I'm very excited," she said about the performance.
Don DeMello, 73, said he wouldn't necessarily call himself a dancer but, like his wife, he's thoroughly enjoyed dancing with their daughter.

"(Lani) is so tickled pink that I'm there," he said. "I've told a couple of (friends) about my dancing and it's been brutal but at this phase of my life, it's somewhat surprising that you do things that you wouldn't have done."
Bickman said the team started practicing in May but has been fundraising and planning for the trip for about a year. The trip costs about $5,000 per person, but the gym's foundation has helped with a lot of those costs.

"I am so proud of my team," Bickman said. "Anything and everything is going on the floor at the same time to show off everybody's abilities and not just featuring the most skilled athletes.

"For me, events like this are very important because it provides an opportunity for the people in my group to do things that they never thought they would do."
Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Dancing on the world stage Group travels to South Africa for gymnastics exhibition

USA Gymnastics Special Olympics conclude in Marietta, Ga.
MARIETTA, Ga., May 9, 2013
Reprinted from

More than 120 gymnasts competed in the USA Gymnastics Special Olympics Championships, held May 4, 2013, at the Cobb County Gymnastics Center in Marietta, Ga. The one-day event featured competition in artistic gymnastics (men, women and unified), rhythmic gymnastics (individual, group and unified) and TeamGym. The competition wrapped up with a gala, which involved all of the athletes.

The top finishers in each category were: Marc Janovics of Illinois, men's artistic; Chelsea Werner of California, women's artistic; Christina Judd Campbell of Canada, rhythmic gymnastics; and Chattooga Galaxy, TeamGym (featuring Karen Davis, Lani DeMello, Khalilah Greer, Paulette Harrison, Mandy Hoopingarner, Katie Kludt, Shannon Laffey and Dana Misitano).

Twenty volunteers served as judges in the event, which featured athletes from 12 states and Canada. The USA Gymnastics Special Olympics Championships was hosted locally by Chattooga Gymnastics, Special Olympics Georgia and Cobb County Special Olympics Gymnastics Team. Procter & Gamble provided a variety of products to the athletes, coaches, judges and moms. A sponsor of USA Gymnastics, P&G is one of Special Olympics' longstanding partners and has supported the movement for more than 32 years.

"I believe the USA Gymnastics Special Olympics is important because it showcases the abilities, rather than the disabilities, of athletes," said Cindy Bickman, meet director and owner of Chattooga School of Gymnastics and Dance. "I was really proud of the Cobb team. The more experienced team members not only competed, but they also helped coach, distributed awards and served as great role models for the spectators and volunteers."
The artistic competition is for skill Levels A, B, 1, 2, 3 and 4, with rhythmic gymnastics for Levels A, B, 1, 2, 3 and 4. Competition includes both individual and Unified gymnasts. A Unified gymnast is a partner without intellectual disabilities who will compete the same routine as the Special Olympics athlete, and the pair's scores will be combined for a team total. For rhythmic group, there are an equal number of Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners in each group.
TeamGym is a competitive version of group gymnastics that features squads of athletes performing together in two events – group floor exercise and group jump. TeamGym may have both Unified partners and Special Olympics athletes.
Men's and women's gymnastics and rhythmic gymnastics will follow Special Olympics rules, while TeamGym will use USA Gymnastics rules.

Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 3.7 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics;;, and

2013 USA Gymnastics Special Olympics Championships
Cobb County Gymnastics Center
Marietta, Ga.
May 4, 2013
Men's artistic gymnastics
1. Marc Janovics - Illinois
2. Nate Hollenback - Illinois

Women's artistic gymnastics
1. Chelsea Werner - California
2. Shannon Laffey - Georgia
3. Audrey Brickwood - Illinois
4. Eve Lotterer - Virginia

Rhythmic gymnastics
1. Christina Judd Campbell - Canada
2. Lani DeMello - Georgia
3. Elena Weaver - Georgia

1. Chattooga Galaxy - Georgia
Team members: Karen Davis, Lani DeMello, Khalilah Greer, Paulette Harrison, Mandy Hoopingarner, Katie Kludt, Shannon Laffey, Dana Misitano


Chattooga students are proud of the medals they won at the Rhythmic Gymnastics competition on May 10, 2013

USAGymnastics University Rhythmic Course, taught by Elena Savenkova December 28, 2012

Our own Cindy Bickman writes about gymnastics for all in her article titled "End-of-the-Year Choreography" in the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of TECHNIQUE. Click here to enjoy...

November 15, 2011
Special Olympics parent Ana DeMello knows all about the transformative power of sport. She was told by doctors that her daughter would never achieve anything but Lani DeMello proves them wrong every day. Read more


JUNE 2011
"I will do anything to be in Greece!"

Paulette Harrison is a 42 -year old Artistic gymnastics athlete and has been competing for 20 years in   Special Olympics. She has undergone 23 operations on her body including the sensitive area of her left eye. "In Special Olympic Games I met many people and I have been friends with many of them. In each game I am with my co-athletes and we have fun together."
The artistic gymnastics athlete came from Georgia to Greece as assistant coach. "I had told my team trainers I would even carry the baggage so as to take me with them. Coming to Athens for the test events meant that my family had to pay for all my expenses so that I could be here because in my state, Georgia, they cover expenses for each athlete so they can participate only once".
In her free time she takes part in bowling and softball teams. Paulette is really excited about being in Greece and meeting the Greeks: "I really like the food and the water .You live in a really beautiful country, people are friendly and they are always hugging me. That's how I realize they love Me." she says.


May 9, 2011
Inaugural USA Gymnastics Special Olympics Championships is Big Success
Click here to read complete article

A teacher and three students from Chattooga Gymnastics & Dance
fly to Slovakia to perform in Nitra.
Click here to read complete article!

Gymnast Battles Trauma, Wins Competition


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