The uneven bars are hard enough with two hands, but Kirkland (Wash.) Juanita High junior Amelia "Millie" Andrilenas is making gymnastics look easy with just one.
The top scorer among 27 gymnasts on Juanita's team, Andrilenas hasn't let a congenitally malformed left hand stop her from winning a statewide competition before the age of 13, qualifying for the state meet as a sophomore and winning the all-around competition in one of her first three meets this season, according to a fantastic Seattle Times feature.
"It doesn’t matter if you have any ‘issues,’" the 17-year-old told the paper. "If you really want to do something, if you want it with your whole life, you can do it. If people are there to help you, it’s really nice. But if you really want it, you could do it by yourself."
Jim and Minah Andrilenas adopted Millie from China as a 16-month-old, and she began competing in gymnastics as a first-grader, according to the Seattle Times. The family's missionary work in Vietnam and Ethiopia reportedly interrupted her training for years at a time, but she made the high school team upon the sport's return to Juanita in 2012.
Also a soccer standout, the 4-foot-11 Andrilenas recorded a career-high 9.3 in her floor routine last week, routinely scores around 8.5 on the vault -- catapulting off her right hand and her "minimally developed bump of a hand beyond her left wrist bone" -- and uses her left elbow to launch herself between the uneven bars, according to the Seattle Times story.
“You hear that, and at first you think there has got to be some sort of limitations for this girl,” second-year gymnastics coach Annie Smith told the paper. “But really, with her I learned the only limitation is competing on bars, which is pretty hard with just one hand. Everything else? Not a problem. Millie has never used it as an excuse for anything.”
Andrilenas scored an 8.5 on the vault and a 9.0 in her floor routine at the Class 2A/3A state meet as a sophomore and is well on her way to qualifying once again this February.
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