ROCKINGHAM — La Cabana may have been more crowded than usual early Tuesday evening thanks to a hard-working Hamlet native who will be attending the 2016 Olympic Games.
Supporters of 18-year old gymnast Ashton Locklear all gathered inside the Mexican restaurant to celebrate Locklear and her recent success. Locklear was recently named as an alternate to the U.S. women’s gymnastics team that will compete at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“I want to be just like her,” Libbie Parsons said with a huge smile on her face. “She’s awesome and she’s my favorite gymnast.”
Parsons was just one of many who waited in an unorthodox line to get a chance to congratulate Locklear face-to-face and pose for a picture with her.
“It’s amazing for all of them to come here and support me,” Locklear said. “I’m thankful.”
This past weekend during the Olympic trials in San, Jose, California, Locklear essentially competed against best friend Madison Kocian on the uneven bars for a spot on Team USA. After tying with Locklear in the first round of the trials, Kocian’s performance on Sunday solidified her spot on the roster — grabbing a score of 15.900 to Locklear’s 15.700.
Although going as a alternate, the Hamlet native is still excited about the upcoming experience.
“I’ve been dreaming of this since I was two years old,” Locklear explained. “I watched the 2000 Olympics and I told my mom I was going to go to the Olympics. Ever since, I’ve worked my butt off in the gym and now it’s a reality — and it’s crazy.
“I want to definitely go and still show Marta my consistency,” she added. “And show them that I’m ready if anything were to happen.”
Like Mykayla Skinner and Ragan Smith, the other two gymnasts who were named as replacements, Locklear’s trip to Rio will be paid for. However, parents of the alternates will not have that same luxury.
Which is why Terry Barrett, Barbara Cato and Abby Covington, former Hamlet mayor, are calling for the community to do whatever they can to help get Ashton’s parents to the 2016 Olympics.
“Now, it’s what can Richmond County mean to Ashton,” Covington said. “They’ve already sacrificed, they’ve worked and they’ve given up (a lot). It’s our turn now to give back to Ashton and her family.
“Her mother and daddy are unbelievable. I know where she gets her strength and character from. It’s an incredible family.”
Terry Locklear — Ashton’s father — did not want to be in the spotlight Tuesday night, but could not hide the smile on his face.
“A lot of these people have driven a pretty good distance to be here and we’re thankful for that,” Terry Locklear said. “We’re very proud of her. She’s put so much into it and we’re elated that she’s getting to go to Rio. It’s been a lifelong thing.”
A lifelong thing that is still surreal to Ashton.
“I’ve been getting so many followers on Instagram and they all comment on my pictures saying, ‘you’re my inspiration’ and stuff,” Locklear said. “And I remember when I was little and I used to do that to some of the bigger gymnasts — and now it’s just crazy that it’s me.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.