As she prepares to head to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the Olympics, Lumbee gymnast Ashton Locklear hasn’t forgotten her roots.
“The support from the people of Robeson and Richmond County means the world to me,” said Locklear, who was born in Lumberton and lives in Hamlet. “It is an amazing honor to represent this great country as a Native American at the Olympics.”
The 18-year-old is heading to Rio as one of three alternates for the five-member U.S. women’s gymnastics team. Should a team member be injured or dismissed from the team for any reason before the the women’s competition begins in August, Locklear could be added to the squad. Replacement athletes travel to the site of the Olympics with the team and continue training as if they are going to be competing.
“Going into the (Olympic) Trials I did not know it was possible for a specialist to go to the Olympics as an alternate,” she said. “When I heard my name called in the holding room I was very happy. It was a great honor.
“I am very excited to have this opportunity to travel to Rio and train with the team and If I am not needed to compete I will be there cheering them on.”
Now, Jackie Jacobs, a former Miss Lumbee, is spearheading a fundraising effort to ensure Ashton’s parents, Carrie and Terry, will have the opportunity to support their daughter in Rio.
“We are so grateful for everyone who has supported Ashton on her journey,” Jacobs said. “But her family still needs our help. I just pray that (Ashton’s) story touches people’s hearts. Can you imagine what it would feel like not to be able to go and support your daughter because of limited resources?”
Jacobs has created a donation page at: https://www.generosity.com/sports-fundraising/help-ashton-s-parents-get-to-the-olympics-in-rio—2
“This has been an incredible journey and we have experienced every conceivable emotion imaginable,” Ashton’s parents said in a statement.
“We are so very proud of Ashton. She will continue training and working hard. We want to thank everyone in our community for your support and everyone across the U.S. who was cheering for her and sending well wishes. We are so grateful.”
With August creeping closer, Jacobs knows time is not a friend of the Locklears. But she’s confident people will answer the call of support.
“I have to believe our community is going to be there for them,” she said. “Please show Ashton how proud we are of her and send her a message that we know how important it is to have the support of the two people who have been by her side from the beginning. There is no love like the love of a mother and father and Ashton needs them there with her in Rio.
“Our love can get them there.”
In addition to the donation website, Jacobs said people interested in donating can also contact the Lumbee Regional Development Association at 910-521-8602.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.