Self-taught gymnast finds inspiration in YouTube videos

Posted Jan. 29, 2014, at 1:49 p.m.

“I’ve never seriously injured myself, but I occasionally twist and sprain my ankle,” said Patrick Hapworth, a University of Maine student with an off-beat hobby.

Hapworth is a self-taught gymnast who spends hours trying to master tricks that he has seen others perform successfully.

As a high school wrestler at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, Hapworth saw an older wrestler from a competing school celebrate a state title by doing a backflip.

“That’s when I figured out I wanted to do gymnastics,” Hapworth said.

After watching YouTube videos of other athletes, Hapworth taught himself to do a frontflip in order to get further distance in the long jump at a high school track meet. In 2011 Hapworth won a high school state title as a wrestler.

Yes, he did a backflip to celebrate.

Hapworth, now an athletic training major at UMaine, still taps the Internet for ideas.

“I’ll watch YouTube and then look at different things and see different tricks that pop out and I’ll go to the gym. I’ll try and see if I can do it,” he said. “When I do flips I don’t think about anything. It’s just muscle memory.”

While YouTube has been the major source of learning for Hapworth, fellow gymnasts at the Old Town YMCA have also helped him to learn new moves.

But while those gymnasts share his interest in the sport, they’re not really his peers.

“I learn a lot of my tricks from girls one-third my age and half my height,” he said.

The 21-year-old Hapworth doesn’t plan on giving up his hobby soon — or ever. He says one of his goals is to teach and demonstrate a backflip for his grandchildren.