Jair Lynch, a 15-year-old junior at Sidwell Friends School, is the best gymnast for his age in the United States. Last month, Lynch won the gold medal in the 13-15 age group competition at the United States Gymnastics Federation Junior Olympics boys national competition at UCLA.

Lynch, the Maryland State champion in his respective age groups the last four years, qualified for the Junior Olympics by placing third in the Eastern Regional finals in Princeton, N.J.

The 5-foot-4 gymnast has a busy life. An honors student, he is currently enrolled in the Chinese Studies program and is treasurer of the Black Student Union.

The hopeful Olympian has accorded academics his No. 1 priority.

"I would love to make the Olympics and go to school on an athletic scholarship," said Lynch. "But I can earn an academic scholarship because of my grades."

Lynch says Stanford is the university he would most like to attend. He was accepted to the Xerox Academy, a summer institute for accelerated students, concentrating in communication and technology.

"It's great that Jair is so good in gymnastics," said his father, Acklyn. "But it is also a good feeling to know that he takes his books so seriously."

Lynch also plans to combine his knowledge gained through athletic achievements with his future interests. "My main goal is to go to medical school and then become an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine," he said.

Lynch began his gymnastics career at age 10; most competitive gymnasts start at an earlier age. But he has overcome the late start.

"I want to be a member of the Junior Olympic team in 1988, and then I want to compete either in the 1992 or the 1996 Olympics," he said.

After his first gymnastics workout, he saw immediate improvement. One year later, he was the Maryland State champion.

Lynch credits a lot of his success to his coach, Rick Tucker. "My coach has been instrumental in me doing well in gymnastics," he said. "He has not only helped me to do real well, he has also helped a lot of other young gymnasts."

Tucker's program, called Gymnastics Plus, is based in Columbia, Md. Of the five male gymnasts trained in Maryland who qualified for the U.S. championships in Los Angeles, four have worked under Tucker.

Tucker believes the best of the group is Lynch, and his recent performance at the Junior Olympics proved his point. "I really think that he has the ability to qualify for the Olympics in 1992," said Tucker. "He has developed so fast in a short period of time, so I really don't think that he's come close to reaching his potential."

Although Lynch has to travel an hour a day to reach Tucker's gym, he says that he wouldn't have it any other way. "You can't just go to any gym to train," he said. "At Coach Tucker's gym, I get good instructions and I'm around other athletes who are also trying to excel in gymnastics."

Lynch's dedication to gymnastics has paid off, but it also has impeded his opportunities to play other sports.

"I like sports," said Lynch. "I particuarly like swimming, diving, basketball and tennis. But I can't play all of those sports and still devote the time to gymnastics that I need to."

Lynch trains three hours a day, six days a week; a self-motivated performer, Tucker says.

"He trains real well," Tucker said. "That's the sign of a real special athlete -- the one who really wants it."