Natasha Kelley has jumped from one married couple to another.
In what is now month-old news, Kelley, runner up at the 2006 U.S. Championships and 2007 American Cup, has left coaches Dan and Ashly Baker of Stars Academy to train under the tutelage of Terry and Tamara Walker of Cypress Gymnastics Academy in Houston.
Cypress produced 1997 U.S. Junior champion Marlene Stephens, and 2000 U.S. vault champion Kendall Beck, though not under its present coaches. Stanford standout Lindsay Wing also trained there for some time, though during the runup to the 2000 Olympic Games, Wing left coaches Debbie Kaitschuck and Deana Parrish to train with Kelli Hill in Maryland.
Despite her American Cup finish, 2007 hasn’t been the best year for Kelley. Battling a fracture and tendonitis in her left heel at Nationals, she placed 10th in San Jose and was left off the World team. Reportedly Dan Baker gave her a rather harsh talking-to after she left a full twist out of her planned 1.5 twisting Yurchenko during day two of the competition.
Wonder what Mary Lou Retton has to say about this transition? The 1984 Olympic all-around champ has been a hugely vocal supporter of the Katy, Texas native in the past, even going so far as to say that politics kept Kelley from winning the 2006 U.S. Championships over Nastia Liukin.
“I felt the scoring was unfortunate,” Retton told sportswriter Eddie Pells after Nationals last summer. “I believe Natasha Kelley should have won this competition. She was strong. She hit all four events with confidence.” That last part was perhaps a dig at Liukin, who capped off an unusually poor second day with a large mistake on balance beam.
Natasha Kelley, 2006 U.S. Nationals Day Two, Balance Beam:
Nastia Liukin, 2006 U.S. Nationals Day Two, Balance Beam:
Retton aside, Kelley has been criticized for poor form on a lot of her dance skills, but she’s also proven herself as one of the U.S.’s more solid beamworkers. It’s doubtful that playing musical coaches the year before the Games is going to get her on next year’s Olympic team, but she certainly has a bright collegiate future ahead of her if she wants it.
Natasha Kelley, 2007 U.S. Championships Preliminaries, Floor Exercise:
The Bakers appear to have moved on as well — Brown’s Gymnastics of Houston reports that the have purchased the facility.