It might take less time telling you what Sophia Campana has not accomplished, rather than listing her seemingly endless list of achievements over the past two decades.
Born in Colorado, Campana, 23, owns dual citizenship because of her Italian grandparents.
She is a former international gymnastics champion who moved to Milan, Italy, where she became a European MTV reality star who often needed bodyguards when she made appearances in and around Milan.
She is the star of Sophialand on YouTube, where she has more than 210,000 followers, a best-selling author of “Flipped: Keeping My Balance Beyond Borders,” and an in-demand motivational speaker.
And through Wednesday, she is visiting Al Fong and Armine Baruytan, the owners of Great American Gymnastic Express (GAGE) in Blue Springs, where a camp featuring of top young performers from around the nation is taking place under the watchful eyes of Fong, Baruytan and an international array of guest coaches (see Wednesday’s and Thursday’s Examiner for more stories).
“I think it would be fair to say Sophia has done it all, and she has done it very well,” Fong said. “We are so excited to have her here for three days this week. She’s fascinating, and her story is incredible.”
Campana won the free body exercise gold medal at the Colorado State Championships when she was 11. She subsequently qualified for seven other regional championships, and competed in the Cancun Classic in Mexico when she was 12. She later qualified for the U.S. National Invitational Tournament, where she won gold and bronze medals and placed fifth in the individual all-around final.
Because of her dual citizenship in the United States and Italy, Sophia was able to train at the elite level with the Italian National Team and in 2015 she competed in Serie A, which represents the highest Italian competitive level.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” said Campana, as whispers of “That’s Sophia,” echoed off Gage’s walls throughout the morning.
After arriving in Milan, she became a television reality personality as she was selected to appear on a gymnastics-themed program on MTV Italia.
“Now, that was crazy and exciting,” she explained. “We had our alarms set for 7 a.m. each morning and the MTV television crews would arrive at our home at 6:50 and be there when we woke up and followed us all day. We really attracted quite a following, which was something I never could have dreamed of when I left Fort Collins, Colorado, for Milan.”
Campana said her wildest dreams became reality on a reality television show.
“To compete at the highest competitive level of artistic gymnastics, in a majestic country like Italy, represents the realization of the dream of my life,” she said. “My story, however, is not based on glory. My purpose is to share my experiences, to highlight the beauty of the journey of life and to inspire other dreamers.”
While her fairy tale story oftentimes seems too good to be true, she admits she had to overcome roadblocks and detours that came with great sacrifice.
“Art gymnastics is notoriously one of the most difficult sports in the world,” she said. “It took me years of sacrifice, intense training and overcoming physical and psychological challenges to realize my dream. But I deeply appreciate every obstacle encountered on my way, because it taught me to identify the positive aspects of each situation.
“That is why I am enjoying every minute this week with Al and Armine at GAGE because they coach and teach the right way. They create a wonderful environment where they coach and teach and motivate in a positive fashion.”
That was not something Campana experienced on a daily basis.
“Every unpleasant, unexpected moment taught me to be wiser and stronger,” she said. “In telling my story, I wish I could pass on all the lessons I learned during my journey.
“I am proud of my deep passion for artistic gymnastics, because this passion – or, as I call it, this inner fire represents how and why I faced the challenges I encountered. We all tend to underestimate the power of the fire we have inside, but I have learned to listen to it and feed it.
“I hope my words kindle the fire of everyone who reads my book or listens to me speak. That is my purpose.”
The inspiration for the book “Flipped: Keeping My Balance Beyond Borders,” came from her diary.
“I was browsing my diary during a difficult time,” she explained, “and my story shows all my ups and downs – the birth of my passion for artistic gymnastics, the development of my dream, the successes, the defeats and the intermediate stages.
“I am proud of all the experiences I lived, including the painful ones, because each of them taught me something. By telling my story, I want to share what I learned along the way.”
She is also a spokesperson for Air Track Italia, a company that provides inflatable apparatus for gymnasts.
“It’s one of the best products we have ever invested in,” Fong said as his gymnasts worked out on an inflatable Air Track Italia surface.
Air Track Italia is the only Italian company specializing in the sale of inflatable sports equipment for gymnastics, acrobatics and related sports such as diving, martial arts, dance and cheerleading.
“I’m so proud to be associated with Air Track Italia and loved to see that Al and Armine use it here at GAGE,” Campana said. “Coaches like Al and Armine want to do everything to cut down on injuries, and this is a great way to do that.”
To learn more about Campana go to @sophia_campana and sophiacampana.com.