Redding Gymnast Kaden Love
By Jon Lewis
Dreams of Gold
Story by Jon Lewis
Photos by Erin Claassen
Kaden Love was a tumblin’ fool as a toddler and his mother just knew his future included gymnastics. The only hurdle, so to speak, was pointing the youngster in the right direction.
“When he was little, he would tumble all over my house,” his mother, Kimmi Patterson, recalls. “He even taught himself to do cartwheels. We wanted him to take classes but he wouldn’t, and then his older brother, Thomas, said he would and Kaden said, ‘Well, I will, too.’”
Thomas eventually lost interest and turned his sights toward baseball, but Kaden, at age 7, fell in love with gymnastics. He started taking a weekly class at Athletics Unlimited in Anderson, working with coach Rene Esparza. Within four months he was competing.
As his skills improved, the achievements and accolades began rolling in. By the age of 13, he turned in his best all-around score at the Region 1 gymnastics meet in Oakland (competing against kids his age from California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah), which qualified him for the Junior Olympics National Championships in Long Beach.
He has qualified for the nationals five times now, and for three of those championships he was a member of hisregion’s elite team. Last year, his sixth-place performance on the floor was enough to earn him a medal and a 14th-place ranking nationally as an all-around gymnast.
Kaden, 18, begins his final season of competition as a high school student this month; nationals are scheduled for May in Fort Worth, Texas.
After that, the plan is an undergraduate degree from a university with a NCAA Division I gymnastics program—Kaden has caught the eye of recruiters from the University of California at Berkeley, Oklahoma, Illinois, Iowa and the United States Naval Academy—and, ultimately, a spot on the U.S. men’s national team and a chance to go for the gold at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
His mother has learned not to underestimate her son’s reach. “He amazes me with his focus and dedication,” Kimmi says. “He leaves me in awe. I could never do what he’s doing.”
What drives her son? “It’s fun and it’s challenging. I think part of it is the physical strength it takes to do gymnastics, and then when he’s doing his tumbling or his high-bar exercise, it’s almost like he’s flying. It’s that feeling of freedom, and to be able to push himself to develop these amazing skills. ”
Brute strength alone is not enough to master the vault, pommel horse, rings, high bar, parallel bars and the floor routine, Kaden says. “If you’re not strong mentally, your skills won’t grow. This is a sport that takes mind, strength and physical endurance.”
Kaden exercises his mind and body on a daily basis. A senior at Shasta Charter Academy, Kaden splits his time between studying at home, attending classes at the Academy and taking a pair of classes at Shasta College. He usually takes a break around 4 pm before heading to the gym and training from 5 to 9 pm.
That tireless resolve is just one of Kaden’s redeeming qualities, says Benjamin Claassen, director at Shasta Charter Academy. “When I think about Kaden, I think of a humble young man who is not prideful—he’s actually soft spoken—with a strong work ethic that is demonstrated in his coursework and gymnastics. He has worked very hard and his hard work is paying off. We’re really thrilled for him.”
Kaden attended Grant Elementary through the eighth grade and spent his freshman year at Shasta High—where his four siblings graduated—but switched to Shasta Charter Academy in his sophomore year because its flexible schedule better accommodated his travel and training demands.
“We took a tour and we agreed that if any of our kids could handle it, it was Kaden,” says Kimmi, referring to her and Kaden’s stepfather, Chris Patterson. In addition to Thomas Love, Kaden’s siblings are Ian, Hannah and Lindsey Patterson. Kaden’s father is Joe Love.
Kaden is all business in school and in the gym. “He’s pretty focused,” says Paul Goedecke of Galaxy Gymnastics Academy, the coach who has been training Kaden for most of the past year after Esparza relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area. “Kaden’s got some good skills and he’s nationally ranked.”
For his part, Kaden considers himself “proficient” at all the gymnastics events but says his floor exercise is his strength. Watching a video where he flips, twirls and somersaults in a world where gravity appears to be a mere suggestion does little to cast a doubt on his assessment.
Kaden may be confident, calm and composed when he’s competing, but the same can’t be said of his mother. “When he’s competing, I get so nervous for him because I know what his goals and dreams are. He generally doesn’t get nervous at competitions, but I make up for both of us.”