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WEST VALLEY CITY — An 8-year-old Utah gymnast fulfilled the "dream of a lifetime" as she performed with some U.S. Women's Olympic gymnasts in West Valley City Thursday night.
As fans of all sizes arrive at the Maverik Center for the chance to see their idols in action, Aleah Olson was busy warming up. USA Gymnastics, the national governing body for the sport, picked Aleah out of other girls ages 7 to 10 in the state who entered a contest.
"I came for the Tour of Champions. I (submitted) a video and I'm the girl that got picked," she said. "I've been really wanting to meet Nastia Liukin for a long time. She's here, so that's really exciting."
Thursday night Aleah met her idol. She says it was "pretty amazing," but it's an opportunity that almost didn't happen.
Aleah's mother, Susan Olson, said, "When she was about 18 months old, she was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. They told us to keep her in something active, to kind of keep her joints going."
And keep her active, they did. Aleah began gymnastics and now trains 18 hours a week at All American Gymnastics in Lindon.
It's a huge honor. This is my daughter's dream.
"I like to do all my events, and I like to look polished," Aleah said.
It's a work ethic that paid off as her passion became her cure. Aleah now is in remission, something her mother says is due to her training.
"I am so proud of my daughter. She works so hard," Susan said. "It's a huge honor. This is my daughter's dream."
And now Aleah is setting her sights on an even bigger goal. "I want to be in the Olympics like Nastia Liukin," she said. In the meantime, she knows exactly what her plans are.
"To do this for the rest of my life," she said.
Aleah doesn't have much time to rest. She's competing in a national competition on Saturday in Texas.