DENVER — Chalk fluttered through the air Monday morning at Dardano’s School of Gymnastics in Denver -- less than a day after four-time Olympic and 14-time world champion gymnast Simone Biles set records at the U.S. women's gymnastics championships in Kansas City, Missouri.
Back in Denver, the large room full of bars, pads and beams was mostly empty, so the gym’s director Gina Dardano and her student Tori Tilden had plenty of room to train.
“The sport of gymnastics is constantly evolving,” Dardano said. “The bar is set, and there’s going to be someone who is going to leap over that bar.”
Hands chalked and wrists braced, 18-year-old Tilden leapt onto the single bar. A couple of rotations to build momentum, and she launched off in a series of flips and spins too quick for an untrained eye to measure.
Tilden and Dardano have been working together since Tilden was 5 years old.
“She’s a good kid,” Dardano said.
Larry Dardano, Gina’s father, opened the gym in Park Hill in 1983.
“He was a gymnast in high school and college,” GIna Dardano said. “He went to North Denver High School, and he went on to compete at Colorado State University.”
Thirty-six years later Tilden and Gina Dardano talk in awe about the recent accomplishment in the sport that would have been hard for Larry Dardano to imagine when he opened this gym.
“This weekend Simone Biles raised the bar and broke several barriers for women in gymnastics,” Gina Dardano said. Biles, 22, nailed the first double-double beam dismount, and triple-double on the floor on her way to winning the all-around at the championships on Sunday.
“Simone Biles is a unicorn,” Gina Dardano said with a smirk. “I definitely would consider her a role model,” Tilden said. “I’m just in awe of how powerful she is, and how graceful she can do gymnastics, and how humble she is about all of it.”
Tilden has been a gymnast most of her life. The sport has shaped her as an athlete and as a person, she said. Having people like Biles to look up to is a big part of her motivation.
“Everybody kind of gets to their top, their plateau, but Simone Biles just keeps growing and keeps getting better,” Tilden said. “That let's all the other gymnasts in the world see that there is no top. You can keep going for anything you want.”
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