Sports

Olympian Chellsie Memmel’s comeback turning serious


Chellsie Memmel wants to emphasize something. This is not about ego nor unfinished business nor fending off some sort of early-onset midlife crisis.

The 32-year-old Memmel’s return to competitive gymnastics after spending nearly a decade getting on with the rest of her life is about love. It’s about discipline. And an inside family joke that turned into something far more serious.

She doesn’t need to do this. She’s got a world all-around gold medal tucked away somewhere. An Olympic silver medal, too. When she officially retired in 2012, Memmel went out on her own terms. She got married, had two kids, became an integral part of running the gym her family owns in New Berlin, Wisconsin, and earned a reputation as one of the country’s most respected judges.

So no, trying to make the U.S. national team while competing against some athletes born the year Memmel stood atop the podium in Melbourne, Australia in 2005 as the best female gymnast on the planet — isn’t some publicity stunt. There are easier ways to do this while juggling motherhood, coaching, judging and returning to the elite level all at once.

“I know people will be thinking I’m doing it just because I want to be in the spotlight,” Memmel said. “That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I don’t know why I would put myself through this. It’s the hardest sport ever. There’s no way I would be dragging myself out of bed to do this instead of doing other things.”

The “other things” had consumed her for years. Yet when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last spring, Memmel suddenly found herself in an empty gym with time on her hands. So she started fooling around: a skill here and there. Momentum built. Her body, which she says is “stronger now than it’s ever been” responded. Muscle memory returned.

Her father, Andy, watched with equal parts admiration and bemusement as Memmel shared video of her fooling around with the gymternet, the sport’s fervent online community. He was impressed, but when she mentioned getting serious, the only coach she’s known didn’t exactly jump at the idea.

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“I pushed pretty hard to see if it was even possible from a gymnastics standpoint,” Andy Memmel said. “I had no interest in doing this for ‘I just want to do this for adult gymnastics, or this is fun.’ If she’s going to make a run at it, let’s do it properly.”

That meant no shortcuts. Getting back to her level as a teenager wouldn’t be enough. The sport has marched forward during her break. Memmel knew she had to evolve along with it.

She has. There’s a whole new bar routine. Upgrades on both floor exercise and vault, where she’s working on a “Cheng” that’s impressed USA Gymnastics high-performance team coordinator Tom Forster. She’s experimenting on beam, working on a skill that — if she pulls it off in competition — would bear her name …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports

      

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