Thursday, March 3, 2011
Sitting Out Competition on Sabbath Hurts N.J. Gymnast's Record
Amalya Knapp, 7, of Teaneck, N.J., works out at United States Gymnastics nine hours a week. Her parents say the gym is very good at accommodating her observation of the Orthodox Jewish Sabbath.
When it came time for the state competition while she was allowed to compete on a different day her individual scores didn't count. Her parents don't think it is fair. Now one New Jersey lawmaker is proposing change.
Amalya has been doing gymnastics since she was 2 years old. Last fall she joined a team and knew she would have to sit out some of the meets because Saturday is the holiest day of the week.
Amalya was allowed to compete Sunday with the 8-year-old gymnasts, but her scores, which ended up being in the top ranks, only counted towards the team's score; she did not get credit for her personal record.
"My gut reaction was disappointed because she had been working so, so hard the whole year," said her mother, Chavie Knapp.
Assemblyman Gary Schaer said most Orthodox Jewish children observing Sabbath face the same problem. So he is drafting legislation to make events more inclusive to religious restrictions.
"It is important we don't benefit one to the detriment of the other," Schaer said. "Many people believe more could have been done."
In a letter USA Gymnastics stated: "USA Gymnastics certainly understands how personal choices and conflicts can affect athlete's participation and does its best reasonably to provide alternatives when possible."
"We would have liked to have seen her age group moved or shifted," Chavie Knapp said.
Amalya was heartbroken when she didn't get her well-deserved recognition. Her mom said she only sees this becoming more of a problem as her daughter moves up in skill level.
"Our daughter Amalya loves sport," Chavie Knapp said. "That's why were doing this."