Champion gymnast with Down syndrome overcomes obstacles, inspires others

For Chelsea Werner, gymnastics started as a way to develop more muscle tone, a symptom from her diagnosis of Down syndrome. But now the sport is a way for her to show others just how much is possible for other athletes with the disorder.

Werner, 22, has transformed from being unable to execute simple muscle maneuvers to a four-time national championship at the Special Olympics (she also has an international championship under her belt). The Californian’s inspiring journey is the latest installment TODAY’s “I Am Unbroken” series, which examines stories of perseverance like that of Louis Zamperini, the World War II hero profiled in the best-selling book “Unbroken,” which now has been made into a feature film directed by Angelina Jolie.

“She has put in this many years and hours of gymnastics training and all those times when she didn’t get a ribbon, and she kept going,” Dawn Pombo, Chelsea’s gymnastics coach, told TODAY. “She fits it to every aspect of what ‘Unbroken’ means.”

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