Armine Barutyan, who coaches with her husband Al Fong at Great American Gymnastics Express (GAGE) in Blue Springs, is the coach of Junior Team USA.
A selection committee, that included former GAGE two-time silver medal winner Terin Humphrey, selected Barutyan after two gymnasts from GAGE led Team USA to a gold medal at the 2018 Junior Pan American Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Leanne Wong, Lenexa, Kan., and Independence’s JaFree Scott were two of the four gymnasts selected to represent the USA at the 2018 Junior Pan American Championships.
Wong, took the bronze in the all-around competition and qualified to compete on bars, beam and vault, earning a silver medal in each event. Scott earned a berth on the team because of her strong all around performance, even though she did not medal in any event.
“We are so excited that Armine is going to be the Team USA coach,” Scott said. “She makes us feel like one, big family here at GAGE and with our Team USA teammates.”
That comment brought a smile to Barutyan’s face. She hopes to bring a nurturing approach to the elite squad.
“There has been so much bad news about gymnastics lately, with the scandal about the team doctor and so many other things,” Barutyan said, while her young daughter Athena played on a nearby mat.
“I want to bring a mothering approach to coaching the girls. I want them to feel like they are part of our gymnastics family. I love being around Athena, and having her here at the gym while I am coaching, and I love coaching these young ladies. They are very special in my life, just like my daughter.”
Barutyan and her husband, Al Fong, the founder and owner of GAGE, are enthusiastic about the future of Wong and Scott.
“They are on the fast track to great things,” Fong said. “To have two girls from the same club on the Junior National team is so exciting. Armine has done an amazing job working with these young ladies and all the members of the team.”