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Santa Clara’s Adopted Gymnast Nola Matthews Seeks Olympic Bid

Elite athletes are often said to have put their “blood, sweat and tears” into reaching the pinnacle of their sport. While certainly a bit of a hyperbole, “the blood, sweat and tears,” phrase might not be more accurate than in the world of competitive gymnastics. The sacrifice by both the athletes themselves and their families is nothing short of extraordinary. In the case of teenager Nola Matthews, that is no different.

Matthews, who will turn 17 in September, has been a member of the US Gymnastics Team for three years. A native of Gilroy, where she and her family still live, Matthews has trained at Airborne Gymnastics in Santa Clara since she was eight. That’s no easy commute.

Furthermore, Matthews has been homeschooled since she was 10 to allow for more time for training. And that hasn’t been without significant sacrifice. Matthews has often missed out on the social events with her peers due to her dedication to the craft. Meanwhile, mom, Kari Bertrand, has frequently driven her to practice, back to Gilroy, then back to Santa Clara to pick her up and back home to Gilroy.


“It’s definitely limited,” responded Matthews on the time she has to still be a kid. “A lot of my childhood was spent here, but I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a tough balance to try and make time to be a kid and live outside of gymnastics.”

“I do a lot of driving,” chuckled Bertrand on taking her daughter to practice. “I go back and forth since I have other kids at home, the work-life, family balance, it can be tough. But even if the drive is like an hour-and-a-half like it was today, it’s worth it.”

The trip to Airborne Gymnastics and back is an hour-and-a-half, but doing it twice in a day can often add up to three hours of time on the road. Not to mention flights across the world. Matthews has already competed in both Europe and South America. The latter of which was in Colombia where she won a gold medal at the Pan American Games.

“It’s definitely different than what I grew up with. My wife and I both did sports, but my travel never went past a few towns away,” joked Nola’s father, AJ Matthews. “Whereas she started off with cities that were a decent drive away like Sacramento, and then next thing we know, she’s going to a different state, then the next thing you know, it’s a different country.”

For Matthews now, the goal is to once again get back to a different country. Her sights are set on becoming one of the final five for the US Olympic team that will compete in Paris come summer 2024. If she makes the team, Matthews will have reached the gymnastics pinnacle just prior to her 18th birthday.

“It’s not always easy,” admitted AJ Matthews on raising a child that competes on the world stage. “She’s gaining a lot from being around a lot of really wonderful young women who are pursuing similar goals, but I definitely feel at times she’s missed out on childhood memories.”

“That said, we’ve frequently asked her along the way if this is really what she wants to do,” added AJ Matthews. “And she has never even wavered; she is always like, ‘Yup, this is what I want to do.’”

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