Gymnastics star Arousha Yousseffi has more to worry about these days than preparing for Chantilly's meets.
Yousseffi has lived in Northern Virginia for nearly 13 years, but was born in Iran and is concerned about increased tensions here because of the war.
"I don't want any danger for myself or my family because of any anti-Iranian sentiments," she said. The war in the Persian Gulf "scares me a lot. I was watching on the news how we bombed Baghdad. It was like a dream to me, unreal; like a video game."
Yousseffi knows all too well about having loved ones caught up in a war. Although she was quite young at the beginning of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, she remembers her family's concerns, especially about her grandparents.
"When the war started, I was really young and really didn't know about it, but the last few years of the war I was worried because I understood what a war was," she said. "We would call our family every day to make sure everything was all right."
Parviz Yousseffi said his daughter has very little to worry about from Americans. "We are living in a democratic, free society . . . and Americans in this area are well-educated enough to know that we are not related to the events in the Middle East. People should not mix up certain ethnic groups with any particular politics."
Arousha "was raised in the United States and has no politics," he emphasized. "She came here when she was 2 1/2. She doesn't feel like a foreigner and she doesn't feel different."
The 5-foot-3, 110-pound Yousseffi is expected by many to be the top female gymnast in Virginia this year.
"I have a sneaking suspicion she will be number one in the state this year," said her coach at Chantilly, Judy Warren. "Arousha is hard-working and dedicated."
Yousseffi tied for third in last year's Eastern Nationals and hopes to improve on that showing.
Gymnastics is a big part of her life and she hopes to continue through college, but she knows time is getting short for her to qualify for such major meets as the world championships or Olympics.
"My dad owns a gym, so I grew up on the sport," she said. "I'm getting too old and too big, so I'm trying to achieve my goals one at a time. My goal this year is to make it to the nationals and finish in the top three, then I'll be able to compete in those types of meets."