Gymnastics is one sport that demands a level of motivation that puts your mental capacity to the test. It's often times viewed as an unforgiving sport, one that requires the ultimate sacrifice. For 15-year-old Thomas Paul, that's just the way he likes it.
"It takes up a lot of my time so you've got to really love it to do it because you train for much of the week. You have to give up things with your friends and all of that. It's kind of become part of my life," Paul said.
Thomas has finished first place in every All-Around event he's competed in except for one. That is quite an accomplishment for a young man who has only been a gymnast for three years. Coaches say his development is shocking.
"He's very self-motivated and that's really been a factor in him progressing as quickly as he has," Paul's coach, Steven Diaz said. "Most gymnasts start when they're 6 or 7 years old and he started with he was 12. His self-motivation is responsible for all of that. If he didn't want it as bad as he does, he wouldn't be at the level that he is."
Thomas said he trains nearly 16 hours per week. He's also the President of the 9th grade class at University High. An overall student-athlete, re-shaping boys gymnastics in the mountain state.
"My goal for now is to try and get on a collegiate team and hopefully maybe compete in an event or two. I just got to work as hard as I can to see where I go because I can't really predict what will happen," Paul said.
"The way he works has influenced the team greatly. He is changing the culture of West Virginia gymnastics not just here, but in the state. This gym has not had a gymnast at Thomas' level or some of the other boys at his level in 10 years. So the fact that we are getting back to that level of gymnastics is very good for the program and very good for the state," Diaz said.