Temple triplets grow closer through gymnastics

After starting gymnastics as toddlers, the Kelly siblings find themselves competing together again on Temple’s club gymnastics teams.

Alexis Kelly (left), a senior marketing major, and Orion Kelly (right), a senior engineering major, sit on the steps of Sullivan Hall located on Polett Walk on Oct. 9. | AMBER RITSON / THE TEMPLE NEWS

For the Kelly siblings, being triplets isn’t the only thing that keeps them connected to each other. From toddler classes at ACE gymnastics to college gymnastics at Temple University, the Kelly siblings have spent their entire lives bonded by the sport. 

Alexis, Orion and Forrest Kelly are all seniors on Temple’s club gymnastics teams. Forrest Kelly competes on the nationally-competitive men’s gymnastics team, and Alexis Kelly and Orion Kelly compete with the co-ed gymnastics team. 

Forrest and Orion Kelly competed with the men’s gymnastics team during their freshman year, while Alexis Kelly joined the co-ed gymnastics team her freshman year and started her role as secretary of the team her sophomore year.

The boys joined the men’s competitive team during a crucial rebuilding year and contributed much-needed scores on pommel horse and parallel bars, said men’s competitive gymnastics coach Jesse Kitzen-Abelson. 

Their participation also helped the group receive team scores for the first time, which wasn’t possible before because there weren’t enough gymnasts on the squad to qualify them for team all-around finals. For a team score, five gymnasts must compete in each of the six events, totaling 30 routines, Abelson said.

With in-person classes and club sports back in full effect, Alexis and Orion Kelly have found their home with the co-ed gymnastics team and currently serve as the club’s co-presidents, while Forrest Kelly chose to study abroad at Temple’s Rome campus for the Fall 2021 semester and will return to compete with the men’s gymnastics team for the spring.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last spring, all club activities and competitions were canceled, forcing the triplets to change their routine.

“The rest of [2020] I didn’t do any gymnastics at all and it drove me absolutely nuts,” Alexis Kelly said. “I was like, ‘what am I doing?’ That was also the longest period I had gone in my entire life, since I was two, not doing gymnastics.”

Forrest Kelly, a senior architecture major, and Alexis Kelly, a senior marketing major, began working out at a few local gyms in Philadelphia when COVID-19 restrictions eased, while Orion Kelly, a senior engineering major, took the time off from gymnastics to focus more on school, he said.

“Our relationship was never built solely around gymnastics,” Orion Kelly said. “It was just one of the things that we all knew, even if I wasn’t doing it we all still enjoyed the sport for the most part.”

Before the pandemic, Orion Kelly spent most of the time with his siblings at the gym, but while being stuck in Philly for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester, he was able to hang out with Alexis Kelly and Forrest Kelly outside of the gym. 

When the triplets began applying for colleges in 2017, they were all aware they’d be applying to Temple, but they didn’t want to influence each of their choices, so the three decided to wait to tell each other until they all made their decision, Forrest Kelly said.

To their surprise, they all chose Temple.

A combination of factors, including price, location and the presence of a club gymnastics team, led to the triplets’ decision, Orion Kelly said.

“I think Temple just really fit the bill for all of us,” Orion Kelly added. 

Both Orion and Alexis Kelly are able to help each other learn different fundamentals that come with being on a co-ed team and combining men’s and women’s gymnastics, Alexis Kelly said.

Alexis Kelly enjoyed sharing practices and responsibilities with her brothers, on top of the new dynamic gymnastics brought by being on a co-ed team, she said. 

“Considering I just grew up in girls gymnastics and my brothers just grew up in boys gymnastics, the co-ed team is very unique because there’s both those elements,” she added.

At age two, the triplets started recreational gymnastics at ACE gymnastics in Ocean Township, New Jersey, where they began competing at age six, Alexis Kelly said.

Alexis Kelly continued competing with the women’s competitive team through high school, while Forrest and Orion Kelly were forced to move gyms because ACE gymnastics dropped the men’s team.

Forrest and Orion Kelly eventually found their home at Monmouth Gymnastics in Morganville, New Jersey, where they practiced and competed throughout high school.  

When Forrest Kelly returns from studying abroad, the triplets will be able to practice in the same gym together again, just as they did when they were kids.

“It’s kind of hard to put it in words, to be honest,” said Orion Kelly. “It’s just some sort of understanding that we have and it is fun to have the same interests because we know that we can do something and we’ll all enjoy doing it together. I know that’s not necessarily the case with all sets of multiples, but I’m very glad that’s the case with us.”

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