Local gymnast earns gold

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Malibu High School ninth-grader Natalie McGiffert (center) won the top spot in three competition categories, including the all-around title, at the USAG Rhythmic Invitational Feb. 17-18 in Colorado Springs. Photo courtesy of David McGiffert

Malibu resident Natalie McGiffert earned top honors at the 2012 USA Gymnastics Rhythmic Invitational in Colorado Springs, Colo. Feb. 17-18.

The Malibu High School ninth-grader competed in four events (hoop, clubs, ribbon and all-around) and won three of them. McGiffert competed against 55 juniors entered from all around the country.

McGiffert, 14, trains 25 hours per week with coach Marina Kukhta and her 11 teammates at Platinum Gymnastics in Simi Valley. She has been training at the center for eight years and has been competing for the last six years. In addition to gymnastics practice, she trains two hours each week at a ballet studio.

During the last five years, McGiffert has been named the Region One Champion and Athlete of the Year four times. She has been nationally ranked in the top five girls in each level she has competed in for the past four years.

Additionally, McGiffert is a member of the USAG Youth Elite Squad, a group of 20 girls from across the county chosen by USA Gymnastics to train at Olympic Training Centers around the country for up to four weeks per year. There they receive special instruction from Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics coaches and Russian ballet teachers.

McGiffert’s next meet is the California State Championship March 17-18 at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.