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Young gymnast goes to national competition

By Ed Brock

Devon Slaughter has a lot of dedication for a 12-year-old.

That dedication and drive shows in his gymnastic routines and it has already carried him to competition in the Junior Olympics National Championship where he ranked at 170 out of 308 competitors.

It was the highlight of his five years of practicing gymnastics almost every day at World Xtreme Gymnastics in McDonough, and he was a year younger than the other boys in his division.

"I was nervous," Slaughter said. "I tried to do my best."

Slaughter lives in Ellenwood where he is home-schooled by his parents, Monica and Steve Slaughter. Monica Slaughter said her son also played football, but a few years ago she saw his potential for gymnastics and started sending him to World Xtreme.

"It has paid off," said Monica Slaughter.

Devon's success is no surprise to his coach, Paul Littlejohn.

"His progression was so fast I knew that competition wise he would excel," Littlejohn said. "He comes on days he's not required to be there and works on skills."

The gymnasts in Devon's school compete in a state event at which they have to qualify to move on to a regional competition, Monica Slaughter said. Devon competed in that regional competition, attended by young gymnasts from all around the southeast United States, and then qualified for the nationals that were held on May 6-8 in Houston, Texas.

His father, Steve Slaughter, said he wasn't sure Devon would make it to the national competition.

"He told me Daddy, I'm going to make it," Slaughter said. "As a parent, I'm excited because he works hard every day at the gym."

Steve Slaughter said he was a competitive kickboxer previously and he encouraged his son's athleticism even when disciplining him. For punishment Devon had to do 100 pushups.

Devon competed in six routines, floor, pommel, rings, vault, parallel bars and high bar. He scored the highest in his favorite event, the floor gymnastics.

"I was nervous to do my double back (dismount from parallel bars)," Devon said. "I landed it."

The season is over for Slaughter, but the work is not.

"Now is when we train for the next year," Devon said.

Devon trains 16 hours a week on average, but when his class is preparing for a regional competition that goes up to 20 hours a week.

When he's not doing gymnastics Devon likes playing video games or going out with friends. As a home school student the gym is a good outlet for Devon, Monica Slaughter said.

"It gives him a chance to let his energy out, plus hang out at the gym with his friends," Monica Slaughter said.

The Slaughters are looking forward to next year's competition and Devon said he plans to compete at least until he goes to college. He has high ambitions.

"I'm going to the Olympics," Devon said.