We've had our fair share of Olympians in the Ark-La-Tex over the years and one more local name hopes he'll be in that mix in the future. Southwood high school's Jalon Stephens has been training pretty much his whole life to earn a spot on the Team USA men's gymnastics squad. Just this year, Stephens has gone further than any Junior Olympian in the male side of the sport in the state of Louisiana. Our KTBS' Rod White introduces us to Jalon Stephens, our Rountree Ford Athlete of the Week.
Jalon Stephens has been running, flipping, and landing toward a specific goal for quite some time.
"I've been a gymnast since I was four. I just jumped around the sofa and everything. My mom put me in gymnastics ever since then I just loved it," Stephens said.
This 16 year old Junior Olympian will be a senior at Southwood high school next year, and his hard work and training has made him one of the best gymnasts in the state.
"At Nationals, we competed and we won the regional title this year and I was fifth," Stephens added.
And out of all the exercises he does well, he has his favorite.
"I really connect with high bar a lot because it's a lot of high flying skills and I just believe that I love flying through the air to have air awareness," Stephens elaborated.
He flys through the air with the greatest of ease hoping to land in Rio in 2016. Coach Sean Keefe counts down the years Jalon has left to reach that milestone, but there's one attainable goal within his reach.
"The bigger goals for him is to make it to a University, which of course is only seventeen Universities in the country right now that offers a scholarship," Keefe said.
He believes Jalon has what it takes to make it in this sport.
"If you're not driven, if you're not willing to work through pain frustration, you know everything that comes with this level of athletics then you don't make it," Keefe describes.
And that's what makes him special to work with.
"How does it feel to be his coach? Honored, honored. He is a wonderful individual to work with, all of my guys are great. Jalon is a natural leader; he is a very positive kid and I attribute that to his parents," Keefe explains.
Which keeps him on his path to greatness.
My goal is to make it to 20-16 and show people that it's not just hard work, that's just a small part of it, but through God you can do anything.
Jalon is deep in training mode. In between preparing in Shreveport, he'll head to an invite only developmental camp in Oklahoma led by the Olympic team's assistant coach.Jalon will be the first Louisianan to compete at the U.S. Championships, beginning August 15th.