For sisters Chloe and Camille Vitoff, gymnastics is much more than a hobby. Both grew up with the sport since they were toddlers and have been competing since grade school.
The two gymnasts were raised in Phoenix and attended Beth El Congregation. They started their acrobatic careers at the Arizona Sunrays Gymnastics & Dance Center. Sunrays co-owner and former assistant coach of the ASU women’s gymnastic team Dan Witenstein coached the Vitoffs. Witenstein was recently inducted into the Arizona Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
Both sisters received college scholarships for gymnastics. Chloe is a sophomore at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where she’s studying business administration with concentrations in finance and international business and a minor in sustainability. Camille will start at Towson University in nearby Maryland in the fall, where she plans to study biology.
How did you guys get into gymnastics?
Chloe: I actually got into gymnastics because the owners of my gym, Arizona Sunrays, also went to Beth El Congregation. My first memory was taking a little gymnastics class that they had there as a special day, and it was something that I really enjoyed. I always had a lot of energy as a kid, so my parents decided to sign me up for more classes shortly after.
Camille: I started gymnastics when I was 2 years old because I wanted to be just like Chloe. My mom often tells me a story of her bringing me to Chloe’s gymnastics meets. I was too young to compete, but I would beg my mom to let me go out there with her. After starting and moving up through the beginning levels, I fell in love with the sport.
What made you start doing the sport competitively?
Chloe: When I started taking gymnastics classes, it was really just for fun, but as I took more classes, my coaches started to realize that I really had the potential to be a competitive gymnast. To be completely honest, I don’t remember thinking that I would not compete. Gymnastics is a competitive sport by nature. I always looked up to the older girls at my gym and I wanted to compete like them. I competed in my first official meet when I was in second grade.
Camille: When I started training in gymnastics, I saw the older girls going to competitions and showing their skills, and all I wanted was to be out there with them. I wanted to compete because I wanted to be able to show all the hard work I had put in. I also loved the friendships that I had made and I wanted to be able to compete as a team alongside all of my friends.
I’m sure you heard that Dan Witenstein was recently inducted into the Gymnastics Hall of Fame. Are there any memories you’d like to share about him as a coach?
Chloe: Yes, I was so excited to find out that Dan was inducted into the Gymnastics Hall of Fame! I honestly can’t think of anybody more deserving of that honor. It’s hard to pinpoint just one good memory. Practicing 20 to 30 hours a week for years on end sometimes meant that I spent more time with my gymnastics family than my real family. In a sense, Dan became like my second dad and my teammates like my sisters.
One of my absolute favorite memories was my senior year state championships. It was my very last state competition ever and one of my last meets with my Sunrays family. We had worked so hard throughout the entire season for this moment. We went into the competition fierce and we edged out the competition and got first place. The best part was that none of us knew that we’d won until it was actually announced during awards, not even the coaches. Usually in meets we’d have a pretty good sense of where we stood, but this meet was close and I remember thinking we’d actually lost. When they announced us as the state champions and we stood on the podium with our trophy and huge banner, it was such a surreal feeling.
Dan is just an incredible coach who really cares so deeply for us as gymnasts and as people. Even the ordinary days in the gym for practice hold great memories, whether it was playing team games or quick history lessons or having everybody poke fun at each other all day.
Camille: I’ve been coached by Dan for most of my gymnastics career, and I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving to be in the Arizona Gymnastics Hall of Fame. I have lots of great memories with Dan but a few of my favorites are when he dyed his hair pink after our level 10 team won the state championship in 2017.
How do you balance being an athlete and a full-time student?
Chloe: Being a full-time student and an athlete is definitely a challenge, but it is something I have been doing for as long as I can remember. It was definitely a learning period when I transitioned to college as to how I was going to manage these new classes in a new city as well as adjusting to a new team. It really helps to have such an amazing support system like I do with my GW team and community, as well as my parents and sister and my Sunrays family back home. It takes a lot of organization and prioritization to manage school and gymnastics, but they are two of the most important things in my life, so having to make sacrifices in order to successfully to do both is something I’m always willing to do.
Camille: I balance being an athlete and a student by always putting school first. I keep a calendar of all the things that I need to do for schoolwork. Being in the gym practicing so often, it can be hard make time for little things like going to high school football games or attending school plays. I make sure to plan my days so that I have time to be at practice and also involved in school activities.
What keeps you driven as a gymnast?
Chloe: One of the biggest thing that keeps me driven as a gymnast is my GW team. College gymnastics is different from club gymnastics in the fact that you are not just competing for yourself, but for the rest of the team as well.
In college gymnastics, six people compete on each event and the five highest scores count toward the team score. It is very competitive to have the chance to be one of these six gymnasts competing, and when you have the opportunity to do so, the entire team is depending on you to perform at your absolute best. Each day in the gym we are pushing each other to be better than before. We all put in so much work in the gym every single day and our bond is like no other, and there is no better feeling than hitting a routine or sticking a landing and hearing your team erupt behind you.
That’s really what it’s all about, winning every moment you can not just for yourself, but for your team and for all the people who have helped you get to that point, and for the little ones that are looking up to you for inspiration of what they can be someday.
Camille: What keeps me driven as a gymnast is looking at all the accomplishments I have made and being excited for the future. Enjoying the little things such as learning a new skill and being excited for my future college gymnastics career gives me motivation. I also am driven by my teammates around me who share a lot of the same goals as I do, and their energy is contagious. JN