Dozens of wide-eyed and eager gymnasts packed the 4-Star Athletic Complex May 2 to receive a special coaching session from one of the most decorated women's gymnasts in U.S. history.
Jordyn Wieber, the 2011 world all-around champion and 2012 Olympic gold medalist, spent five hours at the Williamsport, Md., gym, offering instruction, feedback and encouragement in both group and private clinics. In addition to the clinics, Wieber ate lunch with the gymnasts, participated in a question-and-answer session, signed autographs and posed for selfies.
Wieber, 19, was on hand as part of a fundraising event for the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County and to help celebrate 4-Star Athletic Complex's 25th anniversary. Wieber, the recipient of the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame's inaugural Nadia Comaneci Sportsmanship Award in 2013, said the event provided her with a unique perspective.
"It means so much to do these types of things. Now that I'm done with the sport competition-wise, I still like to be involved with it somehow," said Wieber, who announced her retirement in a blog post for The Players' Tribune March 6. "To be able to come to a place like 4-Star and work with the girls, do the clinic, coach them and inspire them… means a lot to me. … I feel like I'm making an impact, which feels good."
The Michigan native began training at Gedderts' Twistars USA Gymnastics Club in Dimondale, Mich., under John and Kathryn Geddert at the age of 4. Now a sophomore at UCLA and manager for the university's gymnastics team, Wieber acknowledged how all that experience has allowed her to give back to the sport.
"Knowing gymnastics so well, I just think you know how to coach it," Wieber said. "I don't think I'll ever be a real coach, but it's always fun to be able to help fundraise for such good causes."
Nica Sutch, owner of 4-Star Athletic Complex, said the idea to bring Wieber to her gym stemmed from wanting to do something special for her silver anniversary in business. Browsing the Internet for some ideas, Sutch eventually came across Lucas Sports, a company that partners with world-class athletes to fundraise through community sporting events, and reached out to its owner, Jim Lucas.
"We found a website where Olympians can come to your gym and fundraise for it," said Sutch, whose coached more than 125 state all-around champions. "We got in contact with Lucas Sports, which helped us with the event, and it all just started with celebrating gymnastics and getting someone here who has been part of gymnastics for a long time."
Lucas Sports, which is based out of Boston, also works with Wieber's former Olympic teammate Aly Raisman, as well as U.S. women's national team soccer members Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach.
Lucas, who started his company about four years ago, praised Sutch and her staff for the effort that went into making the event with Wieber possible.
"We like to partner with good people, and the people at 4-Star are unbelievable," Lucas said. "They are family-oriented people, and we met some great people here from local gyms who want to partner with us and do other events. When your try to be good, do things right and surround yourself with good people, there's going to be a good event, like the one we had here with Jordyn."
Sutch, a former manager for the Penn State women's gymnastics team, said she was pleased with the outcome, too, and hopes the gymnasts in attendance took some valuable lessons away from Wieber.
"I think all these gymnasts can see from Jordyn that hard work and discipline pays off," Sutch said. "She showed the girls that you can work hard and have a dream that can be accomplished. I think they were just so excited to be around a person like her, so it's nice for them to meet an athlete with that passion."
- Q&A: Olympic Gymnast Jordyn Wieber (Aug. 27, 2012)