Olympic gold medalist Kerri Strug celebrated National Gymnastics Day at Old Pueblo Gymnasticsby Andy Morales on Sep. 21, 2013, under Sports
1996 Olympic gold medalist Kerri Strug celebrated National Gymnastics Day at Old Pueblo Gymnastics. Strug was on hand to offer individualized instruction during the open-gym portion of the event but she was mainly there to help motivate and inspire the young gymnasts.
A Tucson native, Strug attended Greenfields when not traveling the world but she got her start in gymnastics at a much younger age due to the influence of her older sister Lisa who was also an accomplished gymnast.
The TucsonCitizen.com sat down with Strug on Saturday at the Old Pueblo Gymnastics Academy and here’s what she had to say:
How did you get started in gymnastics?
A: “My sister Lisa is 8 years older than me and I wanted to do everything and anything she did times three. I took a mom and tot class when I was young and I loved it.
One of your first coaches was former University of Arizona coach Jim Gault. Coach Gault passed away in early September. Can you tell us about his influence on your life?
A: “It’s obviously really sad because I lost someone who helped me accomplish so much. He helped me flourish in this sport at a very young age. I would not be here today if it wasn’t for him. He also helped Arizona get to where they are. He had such a huge influence”
Speaking of influence on young lives, can you describe the responsibility you have to the young athletes like Jennie Finch in softball and Mia Hamm for soccer?
A: “I’m proud to be in that position. I wanted to be like Mary Lou Retton when I was younger. She was my ideal. I hope the younger kids know who I am that’s why I’m here to speak to them about character and what gymnastics can do for them.”
Part of your talk will be about the importance of character. You went back to school to get your college degree. Can you tell us what you are doing now?
A: “I moved away from Tucson when I was 13 to train with Bela Karolyi in Houston. I turned down a scholarship to UCLA because I was rewarded financially for being a gymnast but I still got my degree at UCLA and a masters at Stanford. I still work in Washington, DC but I moved back to Tucson over a year ago.”
Strug lives a few houses down from her parents now and that’s a good thing because she now has an 18-month son named Tyler.
Randy Sooter is the owner of the gym and academy. A former gymnast at ASU, Sooter has waited a few years to find a worthy cause to raise funds for and GaitWay was an obvious choice.
GaitWay works to improve the quality of life for children and adults with motor disabilities. Corinne is one of the beneficiaries of the GaitWay program and she spoke a few words about what the organization accomplishes and to thank the families who helped raise funds at the event.
Corinne spoke of finally being able to do something that most of the people in the gym take for granted. After working with the staff at GaitWay, Corinne, at age 28, was able to crawl on her hands and knees despite her disability.
“If I can do that,” she told the families. “I can do almost anything.”
And that was the theme of the day as Sooter challenged the kids to have big dreams and Strug expanded on that theme.
“You are going to fall down a lot in life,” she explained. “But you are going to pick yourself up and try it again.”
It was that same determination that allowed Strug the opportunity to get back up and compete in the famous Olympic scene where she nailed a landing despite being injured. But Strug made it clear that it’s the same determination that can carry people through life.
“As human beings we know what our limits are,” she said. “But, until we are tested, we are never really sure what we are capable of.”
Old Pueblo Gymnastics is located at 7670 E. Wrightstown Road