Oct. 25, 2012
Pitt gymnastics will be signing autographs prior to the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions in Pittsburgh on Nov. 16 at the Consol Energy Center. With the Olympians in town, the Panthers’ thoughts turn to Olympic gold and their connections to the 2012 USA Gymnastics team’s “Fierce Five.”
The team and coaches have had quite a few brushes with Olympic fame throughout their careers. And, while everyone on the squad has been inspired by the success of the USA gymnastics team’s success as a whole, Pitt paid a little closer attention to a few individuals in particular.
Jordyn Wieber grew up and competed for the club team Geddert’s Twistars in Michigan. Pitt assistant Michael Rowe coached at the gym with coach John Geddert for eight years prior to his arrival at Pitt, and current gymnasts Bri Hogan and Maya Ketner practiced alongside the Olympic champion at Geddert’s. Rowe was in attendance when Wieber qualified for Team USA at the 2012 Olympic trials in San Jose.
“I really consider John Geddert my mentor in the sport,” Rowe said. “Being part of a National caliber staff that saw Jordyn’s potential from a child and knew that she was going to be an Olympian wasn’t surprising when it all fell into place. John and Kathryn’s (Geddert) system has been a fine-tuned machine that consistently produces National Champions and now they can add World and Olympic champion to their resume. I’m proud to have been a part of their staff’s history and watching Jordyn’s journey has been a thrill!”
Additionally, current Pitt gymnasts have competed against Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and Gabby Douglas throughout their careers, and one Panther has been coached by the legendary Marta Karoli.
Below are thoughts and memories of Pitt’s gymnasts’ brush with the Olympic champions:
Being a Michigan gymnast, I had gotten to know Jordan Wieber very well. We competed against each other in level 9 and went to many camps together. Also, I competed with Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, and another future Olympian at the 2008 J.O. National Championships. I took second place which meant I made the J.O. National team and roomed with one of them at the camp in Colorado Springs. Even way back then, I was amazed.
Watching Aly Raisman grow up in J.O. and competing against her was quite a sight. I never would have thought she would have made it this far, from seeing her at normal J.O. competitions. She really has an amazing work ethic and kept progressing every time I saw her.
Tatiana, my coach at home, goes to the national team camp every month and would help coach them. But, I beat Aly Raisman on beam at a meet once. Also, at Michigan State last year, Alicia Sacramone (my idol) signed my medal and she’s teammates with Aly.
When I was in 5th, 6th and 7th grade, I was training to be an elite gymnast. I went to the elite training camp in Texas once. I got to be coached by Marta Karoli.
My personal connection to the Olympics is through the USA Olympic Diving Coach, Kenny Armstrong. While living in Texas I was trained by Kenny. At the time I was a level 7 gymnast, but also diving. I really enjoyed diving, but gymnastics was my true love and passion. My diving days ended when my family and I moved from Texas to Florida, although I still love to follow Kenny and his divers. Who knows what might have been if I hadn’t moved!
I came from Jordyn Wieber’s gym back home in Michigan when she first started competing at the elite level. We all saw how much talent and determination that she had and it was clear from the start that she was going to be an amazing gymnast. Every practice for her was one small step to becoming an Olympic team member. Jordyn was the type of gymnast who would do each skill or combination over and over again until it was perfect. Her work ethic, amazing coaching staff, family and community all shaped her into becoming the champion she is today.
My Olympic connection was one of the alternates on the team. We went to Parkettes together and we actually practiced together for two years.
One Olympic connection I had was Jordyn Wieber and the Olympic team gymnastics coach John Geddert. John was my coach all through high school and I trained alongside Jordyn at “Gedderts Twistars” in Michigan until I moved to Pittsburgh for college.
I was a level 8 gymnast at the same time as Jordyn Wieber. We competed together and attended some of the same camps.