SACO — It all started in a “Mommy and Me” gymnastics class.

Danny Bishop, now 18 and a state gymnastics champion, recalls first going to gymnastics classes at 4 years old.

The Thornton Academy senior, who graduates Sunday, now competes on a team with Gymnation in Kennebunk.

He has taken part in competitions throughout New England, West Point and even Las Vegas, where he competed in the BlackJack Invitational and had the opportunity to watch a meet with Olympic-level competitors.

This year, Bishop qualified for the Junior Olympics National Championships in Long Beach, Calif., which he attended last month.

During competition season, Bishop practices as much as five times a week, for about 3 1/2 hours each time. In addition to the gym in Kennebunk, he sometimes travels to a better-equipped, higher-level gym in Massachusetts to practice.

“The people in the sport are very nice,” he said. “It’s a very small community (in Maine).”

Excelling in gymnastics takes strength and flexibility, and a willingness to learn new skills and tricks, said Bishop.

One of the hardest tricks he’s mastered is the iron cross, in which a gymnast, in a standing position with arms outstretched to the sides, supports his body by holding onto two rings that hang from a bar.

“It took me a while,” he said.

He said he slowly started attempting the trick until eventually, one day, he was able to accomplish it.

His busy gymnastics schedule doesn’t leave time for much else, besides school and homework, he said, but he enjoys art classes and especially enjoys drawing. He has a candy apple red 1967 Mustang that he restored with the help of his father.

Bishop will attend the University of Maine in Orono this fall, where he plans to study engineering. The college does not have a gymnastics team, but Bishop said he may explore options to continue practicing on his own.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected]

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