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Wheel Gymnasts Ready To Roll

Some young Chicago athletes practice wheel gymnastics. (CBS)

Some young Chicago athletes practice wheel gymnastics. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Some Chicago athletes are headed to a world championship in Dusseldorf, Germany this weekend. But you’ve probably never heard of their sport: wheel gymnastics.

These athletes behind the wheel are determined to bring home some hardware.

Ringmaster Wolfgang Bientzle, a former world champion wheel gymnast himself, teaches after-school circus classes, designed to bring youth from different backgrounds and build self-esteem.

“Some kids had an interest: ‘Well, let’s try this spinning-around thing and give it a try to be a living gerbil,’” he tells CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez.

Cornell Freeney, who won a junior silver medal at the event two years ago, was steered here by his worried mother, who wanted to keep him busy after school.

“I was getting into a lot of trouble, so I knew I had to do something,” he says. “I tried it, fell in love with it and stuck with it.”

And so have other young athletes.

The gymnasts recently got their wheels turning near Chicago landmarks, making a video to show their international competitors what to expect when the championship comes here in two years.

Some of the competitors work out more than 12 hours a week. They leave town Friday.