East Valley teens win gold, silver in Colombia | Sports

A pair of East Valley teens accomplished a great feat in Colombia just before Christmas, winning gold as a mixed pair acrobatics team representing Aspire Kids Sports Center in Chandler, where they train.

Tyler Berg, a 17-year-old Ahwatukee resident who attends Corona del Sol, and 13-year-old Layla Lugo, a Chandler resident, teamed up to compete in various forms of acrobatics on an international stage.

Together they won gold in combined routine and silver medals in both balance and dynamic and all-around. The medals came in the Acro Pan Am Championships in Ibague, Colombia. The two helped Team USA bring home 33 total medals in the process.

“It was great to be able to represent the country,” Berg said. “It was my first time getting to see the country and the culture. Our hard work paid off. We showed what we could do.”

Winning international gold was the culmination of hard work for both Berg and Lugo.

Berg has been involved in gymnastics for the last nine years. He followed in the footsteps of his older siblings, who trained at Aspire Kids. He quickly found a love for it, but recognized the amount of work that had to be put in.

Not only did he have to develop strength for himself, he had to do it for his partner, too.

He and Lugo, who have been teamed up for about a year, do a variety of high-risk stunts during their routines. Lugo will frequently stand on Berg’s shoulders or balance herself upside down with their hands interlocked. It takes core strength from Lugo and arm strength from Berg to complete the routine.

They also need trust.

Layla Lugo (13) and Tyler Berg (17) of Aspire Acrobatics

Layla Lugo (13) and Tyler Berg (17) of Aspire Acrobatics, Thursday, December 21, 2023, in Chandler, Arizona. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

They remain laser-focused, trying their hardest to not only nail the stunt but also not risk injury for one another. They developed chemistry quickly, thanks in large part to their coach, Kylie Boynton.

“She trusts that we know what we’re doing and she’s confident in us,” Berg said. “She knows what we’re going through because she’s been there. The nerves are there.”

Boynton was an acrobat herself and at a high level. She’s won multiple medals on an international stage and is in the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame at just 25 years old.

She was part of the mixed pairs team that captured the first World Cup for the US during her time competing. Her Hall of Fame induction came a year ago.

Boynton said taking her own experience in the sport and applying it to coaching wasn’t a difficult task. Thought she admits she didn’t foresee coaching a pair of gold medalists in her first year with pairs.

But she had confidence they could be successful. They proved that in Colombia.

“They’re my first national team athletes,” Boynton said. “It makes me speechless. I didn’t think I could do this moving here from California. I had no idea I would’ve been able to do that. It’s very exciting and I want to have them go and do more international competitions together.”

Lugo has trained at Aspire for eight years. She spent the first five doing artistic gymnastics before transitioning to acro at 10 years old. It took work both at Aspire and at home for her to get to the position she is currently in.

She never imagined she would be involved with mixed pairs until Boynton approached her with the idea. She was open to it and it paid off.

She feels she has a way to go to perfect her craft in the sport. But winning gold at 13 is a good start to what she hopes is a long and successful career.

“It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” Lugo said. “It was my first time going to an international competition. All of our hard work paid off.”

Boynton said the two will compete in selections for a spring assignment. That requires both Berg and Lugo to be selected to the national team to get the opportunity to travel to either Portugal or Belgium.

Luckily for them, the selection process takes place at Aspire at the end of January, their home gym and somewhere they are comfortable.

For now, however, they’ll continue to train and reflect on what they were able to accomplish.

“It would feel really good to have another experience and hopefully win another medal,” Lugo said, “and to live the experience.”

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