This Champion Gymnast Credits Gold Medal Win To Her Dog

Jay Matthews

In the summer of 2015, World Champion gymnast Kristle Lowell thought she was merely adopting a dog, but ended up finding a training partner and best friend. Today, Koda, an American Eskimo dog, not only accompanies Kristle while jogging and on nature walks, but goes to the gym with her every Sunday to offer support while she trains.

In June 2016, Kristle competed in the USA Gymnastics National Championships in Rhode Island and took home no less than a gold medal—and she gives a whole lot of the credit to Koda. According to the gymnast, she'd "messed up a pass in the preliminary round" and was very upset with herself and that the "only thing on this planet that could make [her] feel better was to facetime with Koda." She called her mother in order to get Koda on the computer, and after an hour-long video chat, Kristle went out to compete. In a dramatic turn of events, Kristle, previously in 3rd place, came from behind and pulled out a win!

“I could not have done it without Koda. He calms my nerves before I compete. I know no matter what happens there is a little white ball of fur at home that will be happy to see me no matter how I do.”

And Koda's reward at the end of a hard day of training? Going to Starbucks to get a Puppucino—a shot of whipped cream which the coffee chain serves exclusively to dogs. However, Koda sometimes doesn't always play fair! Says Kristle, “He is so intelligent he knows how to cheat.  When we race, my mom will say 1…2…3 and he will go on 2.”

In addition to helping his mom become a better gymnast, Koda is also assisting her in another, even more meaningful way. Kristle, who battles depression, says, "suffering from depression is hard, but suffering from depression while being a world class athlete can be even harder. My depression has improved so much in one year and I attribute this to Koda. He will not let me just sit in bed and he always knows how to make me laugh. American Eskimo dogs were bred to be circus dogs. He can be quite a little clown at times”.

Kristle is currently training for the 2017 World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. The last time she was in Bulgaria, she became the first American World Champion in trampoline in 16 years, yet she claims that the real highlight of her trip was having the chance to feed homeless animals: “I just want to take them all home with me.”