Mika Webster-Longin, Bay Area high school gymnast, reaches for Olympics

CONCORD, Calif. - A Bay Area teenager from Richmond is reaching new heights in gymnastics. Her name is Mika Webster-Longin and this high school senior burst on the scene last year by winning the Developmental Program National Championship in the uneven bars, floor exercise, and all around.

"At nationals I was just completely in the zone. Nothing could shake my excitement of being able to compete. I was just so focused the whole time," Mika said. "Before I won, I was just a random gymnast from East Bay and then, you know, I was like, ‘Wow, if I can do this, what else can I do in my sport?’"

Still riding high on her stellar showing at nationals, Mika was invited to a National Team training camp last summer.

<div>Mika Webster-Longin wins the all-around at Nationals in 2023</div>
Mika Webster-Longin wins the all-around at Nationals in 2023

"Getting coached by U.S. National Team coaches and them being like, 'You're good.' I was like, "Whoa, I am?'"

Mika's passion for the sport started at age 4, before she even knew what gymnastics was.

"She was bouncing off the couch, rolling off the coach, sometimes tumbling on her head and, we're like this is too dangerous," her mom said. "So, we took her into gymnastics."

Within a year, Mika was invited to join the team, and as she explained, "14 years later, here we are."

<div>Mika Webster-Longin as a young gymnast just getting started</div>
Mika Webster-Longin as a young gymnast just getting started

Where that is, is training 35 hours a week while still maintaining her status as an honor student at St. Mary's College High School in Albany.

So how does she pull it off?

"Lots of support. I’m very grateful for all the help from St. Mary's," Mika says. "From my principal, Dr. Imperial to all of my teachers working with me through the changes."

One of those changes is schooling at home while she prepares for big-time competitions. But like any elite athlete, greatness does not come without sacrifices. Mika’s mom, Maria explained, "it's a really hard balance to be out there socially and to be doing high-level gymnastics."

While it is a challenge, Mika said, "My love of gymnastics is so strong that I've been able to make those trade-offs and I know it's going to pay off in the long run and even if I'm going to miss out on something in the short term, it's worth my long-term goal.

It hasn't always been smooth sailing. About five years ago, Mika's love for gymnastics hit a rough patch. At age 13, after nearly 10 years in the sport, she was burned out.

"I had a lot of mental blocks, which is kind of like when you get scared of skills, because gymnastics is a very mental sport, and at the time my coaches weren't really working with me through that," she said.

But rather than quit, Mika switched gyms and coaches, which is exactly what she needed.

"She was afraid of everything," her coach Lisa Terry said, "She was just burnt out and didn't really love gymnastics."

Terry is the owner of East Bay Gymnastics in Concord, where Mika trains.  As a former gymnast herself, she could empathize with what Mika was going through.

"I think what I did was I went slow, and I listened because she had a lot of anxiety," Terry said. "I recognized all that stuff underneath, and we slowly unpacked that stuff underneath and that's how her and I built trust."

Mika said, "moving to East Bay has been so magical because my coach, Lisa has really helped me rediscover the love of gymnastics."

That love and hard work has taken her to new heights, including a scholarship to her dream school, UCLA.

"It’s so cool. When I was 8 years old, I remember watching UCLA floor and I was like ‘I want to do that.’ So, to be able to commit to literally my dream school is incredible. I couldn't imagine myself anywhere else."

<div>Mika Webster-Login commits to her dream school UCLA</div>
Mika Webster-Login commits to her dream school UCLA

But that's not all. Mika, whose father is Belgian, earned a spot on their National Team, putting her one step closer to making it to the pinnacle of her sport.

"My dream was to go to the Olympics. Most baby gymnasts’ dreams are, same as mine," Mika said. "Being able to actually achieve that knowing that so few people do would be just...amazing."

Terry said with Mika’s hard work and dedication, the 2028 Olympics are within her reach.

"She's amazing, she's beautiful, she's strong. She's not even close to what she's capable of and has so much gymnastics left in her," Terry said. "I mean I think Mika can go as high as she decides to go with it."