Almeida decides to continue gymnastics career at West Point

Almeida decides to continue gymnastics career at West Point

Cumberland High senior Gabriel Almeida proudly shows off his Certificate of Appointment from the U.S. Military Academy-West Point, where he will continue his academic and gymnastics career in the fall.
CHS senior boasts impressive resume in sport

CUMBERLAND – Gabe Almeida can’t recall too many memories as a young child growing up in Oregon before his family moved to Cumberland when he was four years old.

But Almeida can fondly remember the hours he spent at a Little Gym location near his Portland home. His parents signed him up for introductory gymnastics sessions at the Little Gym, “and I just fell in love with it,” he added. “I would always be excited to train there.”

When Almeida moved to the East Coast, he didn’t leave behind his love for gymnastics, and roughly 14 years later, he saw his countless hours of hard work in the sport pay dividends when he recently signed an LOA (Letter of Acceptance) to continue his athletic and academic career at the U.S. Military Academy-West Point.

For the Cumberland High senior and high honors student, who was named one of USA Gymnastics’ Academic All-Americans last year, West Point is the absolute perfect fit, and there are quite a few reasons why choosing to attend the prestigious New York academy was a no-brainer for him.

“I was always interested in attending a military academy,” noted Almeida, who will be the second CHS student-athlete in as many years to take their talents to West Point, joining 2020 graduate and baseball standout Brandon Wright. “I’m also looking into studying cyber security, and there’s no better place (to study it) than West Point.”

As for gymnastics, Almeida spent nearly a decade at the Ocean State School of Gymnastics, from the time his family settled into Rhode Island to his final few months as an 8th-grader at McCourt Middle School, and not only won several state titles, but also qualified for the regionals every year.

But before Almeida stepped foot into high school, he knew that he wanted to one day compete at the collegiate level, “so I looked for who was the best (gym) in the area, and that’s when I heard about the Massachusetts Elite Gymnastics Academy (in Millis, Mass.),” he said. “(Head coach) Levon Karakhanyan is globally renowned. He has trained (U.S.) National Team members, and he puts all his kids into collegiate programs, and I knew I wanted to train under him.”

As a gymnast with MEGA, Almeida made the half-hour trip to Millis six days a week for four hours of workouts, “and we usually have a few local meets and then (Karakhanyan) likes to pick one that’s far away,” noted Almeida. “And he always picks one that has good exposure to high-tiered gymnastics. Texas is one of the best regions in the U.S. for gymnastics, and we always go down there for international meets so we can see top-tiered gymnastics. Often, there will also be a collegiate meet as well that we’ll go see, and they’re amazing.”

Almeida’s last meet was the 2020 Boston Classic, which was hosted by MEGA during the final weekend of February, and he took first place in the Level 10 pommel horse with a score of 13.6 and added scores of 13.3 in the rings and the vault. Prior to that meet, he also enjoyed success at the Houston National Invitational, and not only tied for second place in the pommel horse with a score of 12.8, but also scored a 13.2 in the vault and a 13.0 in the rings.

Unfortunately for Almeida, who was a Region 6 Junior Olympic National Qualifier, and athletes throughout the world, they had to step to the sidelines during the opening stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. And even though the MEGA was closed, Almeida continued to train from home, and he even purchased a pommel horse from a local gym that wasn’t using it anymore.

“I put that in the garage and some old mattresses and foam covering at the bottom in case I fell,” said Almeida. “I tried to work on a lot of basics and do a minimum of two hours to stay sharp (on the pommel horse). My team and I also did online workouts together; I got into a lot of running as well to stay in shape, and I did a lot of body weight work – almost like CrossFit without the weights.”

While he was training from home, “the assistant coach at West Point, Evan Eigner, called me,” said Almeida, who had previously competed on the West Point campus. “From there, we just talked about West Point and the team, and I just felt like we really connected very well. I kept developing a greater and greater interest, and that just helped so much.”

After three rounds of Zoom interviews and satisfying a laundry list of requirements by the academy, Almeida received his Certificate of Appointment. He’s been on Cloud Nine since then, but he’s also staying grounded and setting his sights on graduating this spring and heading to West Point this fall.

“I always pretty much try to perfect myself in every aspect,” said Almeida, who has also put countless hours into community service and working at food banks. “Right now, I’m just training to focus on my collegiate routines, which have more skills and difficulty then the J.O. requirements that I would be doing now, so my freshman year at West Point, I can be ready to benefit my team as much as possible.”