Perkins earned a spot on the United States women's gymnastics team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but Pearl's parents, Russian-Jewish immigrants, vehemently opposing the Nazi goverment, denied her permission to attend the Games
In the 1930s and early 1940s, Perkins was one of the top gymnasts in the United States. Considered to be one of the most talented athletes in South Philadelphia history, Pearl was a star in track and field and swimming by the time she was 12 years old. In junior high school, Perkins found a new passion, gymnastics, and helped her school team win the Philadelphia city championship; she also won a scholarship to Turners Athletic Club, one of the most prestigious in Pennsylvania. After attending South Philadelphia High School (class of '32), Pearl won the Middle Atlantic AAU title in 1936, the same year she qualified for the Olympic team. Although she did not go to Berlin, Perkins continued to compete in the U.S., winning the AAU all-around championship in 1937, 1941, and 1943; she also won the horse and vault in 1941 and 1943.
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