USA Gymnastics

Asher Hong Weaving A Web Of Olympic Dreams

Asher Hong Weaving A Web Of Olympic Dreams

If Asher Hong is fortunate enough to win Olympic gold, he has no problem giving Spider-Man some of the credit.

Mar 31, 2021 by Stephen Kerr
Asher Hong Weaving A Web Of Olympic Dreams

If Asher Hong is fortunate enough to win Olympic gold, he has no problem giving Spider-Man some of the credit.

The Level 10 gymnast, who just turned 17 on March 23, often mimicked the superhero by climbing door frames when he was three years old. His father Rick held him in his arms like a prop, simulating the motions of Tobey Maguire spinning webs from building to building. Even now, “Spider-Man Far from Home” is one of Asher’s all-time favorite movies.

“There are so many things to relate to with him,” said Asher, who trains at the Cypress Academy near Houston. “He’s super acrobatic.”

Asher is putting up results that resemble superhero status. In February of this year, he finished first in All-Around and Team competition at the Elite Team Winter Cup in Indianapolis. 


In 2020, he took second in All-Around at the Winter Cup Challenge, and first in Team at the Elite Cup. He’s a three-time AA champion at the Men’s Junior Olympic National Championships and took first in pommel horse at the JO Championships in 2016.

Born in Plano, Texas, Asher and his family moved to Nixa, Missouri when he was five. His first two competitive years were spent at Springfield Gymnastics before his parents moved back to the Dallas area. Asher enrolled at WOGA for six years, then joined Cypress in 2017 when the family relocated to the Houston area. He’s been training with coaches Tom Meadows and Igor Vernyi ever since.

Asher’s two younger brothers, Xander and Kiefer, also compete in gymnastics. The three boys constantly push each other to be better. When he competed at Nationals for the first time in Level 8, Asher won the AA competition. That’s when the realization hit him that he could hold his own with the best.

“My coach was like, ‘don’t (expect) too much because it’s your first year’,” Asher recalled. “But I happened to win that year, so I wanted to keep going, keep progressing, and see how far I could go.”

Asher’s versatility is as impressive as his consistently high scores. Vault and pommel horse bring him the most excitement, mainly for the thrill of mastering a difficult routine. From a learning skills standpoint, the high bar gives him a great deal of satisfaction.

“Most of the elements on high bar are releases,” Asher explained. “Feeling like you’re flying in the air, releasing and catching the bar again is pretty cool.”

At the recent Elite Team Cup, Asher scored 80.700 across all six events, 3.25 points better than his closest competitor. In an event considered especially challenging for a junior, he nailed a 3.5 twist on vault, racking up the highest score of the meet with a 15.000.

Since Asher does so many things well, it’s difficult to find a weakness.

“He’s a unique athlete,” Meadows said. “He’s had a little bit of weakness on the high bar, but he’s been working so hard that as he’s growing, it’s not going to be for much longer. He just needs a bit more time to grow and understand the event a bit more so he can take advantage of his ability.”

Asher’s calm, steady confidence makes him even tougher to compete against. Most competitors are a ball of nerves before performing a routine. Not Asher. Meadows and Vernyi have trained him to think above his competition and be fully prepared.

“Usually, by the end of the year or even during the middle of the season, we do enough routines to where we’re pretty confident,” Asher said. “It’s just another workout.”

It hasn’t hurt that Asher is already seasoned in major championship events.

“Asher’s gone to a few international competitions,” explained Rick, a software engineer. “He’s been to Berlin and Colombia for the USA. Internationals are the ones where the pressure’s on.”

During the coronavirus shutdown, Asher took a 10-week break away from the gym. But he still found ways to train at home. Along with Zoom workouts conducted by the coaches, he worked on a mini pommel horse Rick and his wife Karen bought, which Asher believes was instrumental in honing his skills. They also had rings he could use to keep up the strength in his elbows.

As challenging as the layoff was, it allowed time for some much-needed rest.

“When I came back, I felt stronger, faster, more agile, everything was better,” Asher said. “I just had to get back in shape.”

Asher returned to competition the week before Christmas for a home meet at Cypress. It was the first time he successfully completed the vault routine he’d been working hard to perfect. He went on to do it again on the first night of Elite Team Cup competition. The next day, some of the junior men joined the seniors for event finals. While he wasn’t able to repeat his success on vault, Asher still managed to win floor, pommel horse, rings, and parallel bars.

“Our goal with him is always what’s next, what he can do next to make himself better,” Meadows explained. “There’s always somebody out there working just as hard if not harder, so you need to be ready for that person.”

If the pandemic has taught Asher anything, it’s that life holds no guarantees. Gymnastics is no different, filled with triumphs and disappointments. It’s a lesson that has played a major role in helping him mature as an athlete.

“He learns so much from the sport itself,” Rick said. “All of my boys, sometimes they’re more disappointed at how they did than we are because they train so many hours. They train to hit their routines. Gymnastics is considered the hardest sport in the world to learn. They already learn from this sport to overcome difficulties.”

Asher has trained himself to completely clear his mind before a routine and not overthink.

“I see a lot of guys whenever they think too much before a routine, it messes with them a little bit,” Asher said. “It’s just a natural tendency to visualize. You kind of drift off and think of all that could go wrong. So I just empty my mind and let my body do its work.”

While the dream of winning Olympic gold is very much alive, Asher tries to stay focused on the here and now.

“I’ve got to see and gauge each year,” he explained. “There are so many guys internationally doing big (things). I’ve just got to keep up with them, keep up my star value and keep up my execution to fit right in with those guys.”

The only thing that could make achieving Olympic glory sweeter is Tobey Maguire being there to share the moment with him.