All gymnasts dream of someday becoming an elite gymnast and competing on a world class stage--that was no exception for Alaina Kwan. After watching Nastia Liukin tumble her way to gold at the Beijing Olympics, Alaina knew she wanted to become an elite gymnast too. Kwan's father was an Olympic diver in 1984, so reaching the highest level of the sport only seemed like a natural progression. She began gymnastics at PDA USA Gymnastics doing mommy and me classes, then moved to Gym Max in 2011 as her skill level progressed. In 2013, she moved to All Olympia to train under Artur Akopyan and his wife Galina. "My family and I just felt like it was a better fit for me," Alaina said of the gym switch. "After being with them these last few years, my gymnastics has improved and they were able to help me reach my goal of becoming an elite gymnast. Overall it's been great and I'm happy I made the switch."
After trying for two years, Alaina finally obtained the elite qualifying score in 2015 and competed at the US Classic where she finished 9th all-around and 7th on floor. It was after that competition that the idea of competing for Belarus was first proposed. "I knew I was already late in the game when it came to elite gymnastics and we figured I had a slim chance of making the USA national team." she admitted. After her coaches received information on the opportunity, Kwan and Dickson jumped on board. "We just decided that it would be a great chance to travel the world before going to college."
When the news that Alaina and Kylie would be competing for Belarus emerged, the Gymternet went crazy and not too many people were happy with the decision. "I was really surprised by how much talk there was about it, but I understand that people have their opinions and they are entitled to them." Kwan said. In order to remain focused, Alaina avoided social media and tried to block out any criticism that she and Kylie were receiving. "I just tried to remind myself that this is a great opportunity for me and to try and enjoy it as much as possible."
In only the second elite meet of her career, Alaina found herself on one of the biggest stages in gymnastics-- the World Championships. After a sub-par performance, she finished 73rd all-around but still qualified an individual spot for the nation of Belarus to the Olympic Test Event. On the biggest stage of her life, Alaina says she is most proud of hitting her beam routine. "I was already so nervous and was still trying to get use to the Gymnova equipment," she said. "I felt like I was shaking the whole time but I was able to push through and come out strong." Looking back on her Worlds experience, Alaina has no regrets, stating that she was glad to be given the opportunity to visit a new country and meet new people. Most importantly, she was glad she could share the moment with Kylie, who she says is her best friend.
For now, Alaina's elite days are done as she shifts her focus to competing in college gymnastics. She is set to compete for the University of Kentucky this upcoming season. "Everything about the school just felt like the right fit for me, plus I love the team and coaches!" she said. Alaina's talents will likely make a big impact to the Wildcats lineups immediately.
If there is one thing Alaina has learned throughout her small but memorable elite career, it's to chase your dreams no matter what. "I would tell young girls to reach for their goals, whether it's making elite or competing internationally, always believe in yourself and don't focus on what other people think," she said. "You know what you're capable of and if you believe it and are willing to work hard for it then you're dreams can come true."