MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Two Mid-South natives have been operating one of the most successful gymnastics training centers in the area for 39 years.
Donna and Gene Alexin are the owners of Gymstars Gymnastics in Collierville.
The two host an invitational that draws close to 600 participants from eight different states.
It's the Aloha from Memphis Invitational and it draws veterans as well as first timers like Anna Wingbermuehle.
Wingbermuehle has only been doing gymnastics for a little over two years, but she's excited to be at an invitational as competitive as the one at the GymStars training facility.
"It's a lot bigger than most of the meets, which is different," she said.
It's meets like this one that GymStars' Bridgette Peterson has competed in all of her life. Peterson has trained with GymStars since she was 5 years old and she credits coach Donna Alexin, as well as competitions like the meet, for her success.
That's success that includes a gymnastics scholarship to the University of Wisconsin La Crosse.
"I would not be here without GymStars," Peterson said. "They pushed me through many hard times. Many setbacks in my life and helped me through lots and lots of injuries and stuff that I wouldn't be able to get through without coach Donna."
Alexin and her husband competed in college gymnastics and dreamed of owning their own gym. Donna said her hunger to provide kids the best training center in the area and a tournament that rivals larger competitions nationally has led to the success of GymStars and the Aloha From Memphis Invitational.
"It's my whole life," Donna said. "It's everything I do, every morning from picking up kids and bringing them to the gym, feeding them breakfast at my house, bringing them to the gym. You know, we train all day long. We have three and four workouts a day. When I lay my head on a pillow at night, I thank God for all the wonderful things in my life. It's for these kids and it's for these parents. It's for the opportunity to make an impact and a difference in the life of a child."
As for Anna, she hopes to be able to keep competing in similar competitions and grow as a gymnast.
She said Bridgette's success makes her feel like she can reach her goal.
"I want to try.....most of the time if you just put your mind to it, it works," she said.
The tournament continues Friday until Sunday.