by Sam Davis
Olympic swimmer Josh Davis could not share tips on proper streamline or flip turns to the young women of the U.S. Gymnastics National Team last week, but he did impart some insights on maintaining a healthy balance between athletics and other areas of life.
On February 23, Davis visited the U.S. Women's Gymnastics National Team Training Center, a 2,000-acre ranch located in Hunstville, Texas. An hour north of Houston, the center is run by legendary coaches Bela Karoly and his wife, Marta, who is the team coordinator.
The Karolys are arguably the most successful coaches in the history of U.S. Gymnastics. They have produced 28 Olympians and nine Olympic champions including Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton, and Kerri Strug.
Young female gymnasts who have their sights set on the 2008 Beijing Olympics just completed an intense training camp where Marta Karolyi selected the athletes who will represent Team USA in this month’s biggest competitions.
Davis was excited about the opportunity to observe these Olympic hopefuls’ during their three-hour practice session before speaking to them as a group.
“I have always been a big fan of gymnastics, so it was a tremendous privilege for me to see these world-class competitors in person,” he said. “What impressed me even more than the incredible athletic ability of these young women was the culture of team unity that the Karolys have instilled in this program.”
Only six of these young women will be selected to the U.S. Olympic Team at the team trials that will be held in Philadelphia from June 19-22, 2008. Amidst this intense pressure to be the best gymnast in the world, Davis challenged the young women to keep a healthy perspective on sports.
“Each of you has an incredible gift, but it’s important to remember that gymnastics and your success in this sport does not define you as a person,” Davis explained.
Davis shared his experience at the 2000 Sydney Olympics to illustrate this point. Even though he broke his own American record in the Olympic finals of the 200-meter freestyle, Davis only finished fourth in the event. He was devastated not to have won a medal in his best event.
“I was very upset after my race and I figured my parents would be disappointed as well. But, when I met them in the stands, they had tears in their eyes and they said, ‘That was amazing! We’re so proud of you. We love you.’” Davis said. “I realized that I had done my very best and that my parents loved me regardless of which place I finished. My hope is that you too have people in your life that love you and support you unconditionally.”
After spending time with these young gymnasts, Davis will be cheering on Team USA with added interest.
“We should all be very proud of the young women who will be representing our country at next year’s Olympics.”
2006-2007 U.S. Gymnastics Women’s National Team
Jana Bieger, Coconut Creek, Fla./Boca Twisters
Kayla Hoffman, Union, N.J./Rebound
Jacquelyn Johnson, Westchester, Ohio/Cincinnati Gymnastics
Natasha Kelley, Katy, Texas/Stars Houston
Nastia Liukin, Parker, Texas/WOGA
Chellsie Memmel, West Allis, Wis./M&M
Christine Nguyen, Plano, Texas/WOGA
Kassi Price, Plantation, Fla./Orlando Metro
Ashley Priess, Hamilton, Ohio/Cincinnati Gymnastics
Alicia Sacramone, Winchester, Mass./Brestyan's
Randi Stageberg, Chesapeake, Va./Excalibur
Amber Trani, Richland, Pa./Parkettes
Shayla Worley, Orlando, Fla./Orlando Metro
Team USA Women’s Gymnastics Schedule
Tyson American Cup, Jacksonville, Fla., March 3 (Live on NBC)
International Invitational, Houston, TX, March 11
USA vs Great Britain, Lisburn, N. Ireland, March 17-18
Gymnix International Tournament, Montreal, Que., March 16-18
Visa Championships, San Jose, CA, August 15-18