At an international competition in Mexico City, this Lake Mary gymnast earns two golds, a silver, and a bronze
Ella Dragosavac loves a good challenge. So when her mom, Susana Huaman, asked her if she’d like to compete in the Pan American Maccabi Games, even though Ella didn’t know anything about it, the young gymnast was eager to give it a try.
Susana, the owner of a local gymnastics center, had received an email in November 2018 from Maccabi Games representatives telling her they were looking for Jewish gymnasts born in 2005 or 2006. Well, it just so happens that Ella was the right age, and even though she was not raised in the Jewish religion, her paternal grandfather was, in fact, Jewish.
“I sent a video in, thinking that maybe she would be an alternate on the team,” Susana says of Ella. “But she was selected.”
Ella, who lives in Lake Mary, was one of just eight gymnasts, age 12 to 13, who represented the United States at the Pan American Maccabi Games – an Olympic-style competition held every four years in a Latin American country. The 2019 Games were hosted by Mexico City on July 5-15 and included more than 5,000 athletes from 23 countries.
To make it to Mexico City, though, Ella (now 14) first had to overcome a wrist injury that caused her to miss four months of practice time. The injury gave her just over three months to prepare for the Maccabi Games. She also had to raise almost $6,000 to finance the trip and had to travel by herself for the first time (Susana joined her midway through the event).
“I was excited, but I was also a little nervous,” says Ella, a freshman at Lake Mary High School. “I’ve never done something like that, going to a meet by myself where I didn’t know anybody who was going to be there. But it was cool to go to another country and represent my country in a sport that I love.”
Not only did Ella represent the USA, she brought home four medals: gold in the team competition and uneven bars, silver in the balance beam, and bronze in the all-around competition. And she made new friends from all over the world.
“I was so super proud of her,” Susana says. “It was a huge accomplishment. She wanted the opportunity to do it, she worked so hard, and she did it. This is definitely the biggest thing she’s done so far.”
Ella, one of six children of Susana and husband Irving Dragosavac, started gymnastics around age three and was put on her first team at age six.
“This is where she grew up,” Susana says. “Five of our six kids were into competitive gymnastics. As the fifth child, Ella saw what her siblings were doing, and she wanted to be like them. Ella just needed someone to believe in her, and if they did, she could accomplish great things.”
With the support of her family, coaches, and teammates, Ella has racked up many accomplishments. She’s currently a Level 9 gymnast – competitive gymnasts are ranked from Level 1 to 10; beyond Level 10 is elite gymnastics, from which the Olympic team is chosen. Ella was the Southeast Regional Level 6 all-around champion at age 10. In Level 7, she was state champion in floor exercise and balance beam, and Ella was Level 8 regional champion on the uneven bars.
“She’s so easy to coach,” says Mackenzie Winstead, who has coached Ella since she was five years old. “She has so much determination and such a great personality.
That personality has also helped Ella in one of her latest endeavors – acting. She was recently in a couple of commercials, one airing locally and one airing nationally. Susana says Ella is also a phenomenal singer.
“It’s cool to think about doing other things,” Ella says, “but right now I’m happy with gymnastics. I’m just going to keep working and see where life takes me. I’m not sure what I want to do when I grow up, but for right now, I’m just happy with what I’m doing.”
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