Posts Tagged ‘Natasha Kelley’

Hollie Vise and gymnastics — friends again

January 10, 2009

OUs Hollie Vise.

OU's Hollie Vise.

So says ESPN in a nice interview and story with the Oklahoma junior, coach K.J. Kindler and a few other people.

The article also confirms what a few insiders have been saying since Vise accepted a scholarship to OU — that former coach Steve Nunno would have let her have a full ride just for being a beam specialist.

Undoubtedly Vise’s name and accolades would have assured OU decent recruits (such as 2006 U.S. Championships runner-up Natasha Kelley, now a freshman) for years.

From darkness, Vise finds light with OU gymnastics

Hollie Vise and gymnastics are friends again.

Vise, a junior for the 10th-ranked Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team, is enjoying renewed enthusiasm for a sport that once led to the biggest disappointment in her life.

Hollie Vise went from being a world champion to a disappearing act, but she’s back — as a Sooner.The 21-year-old Dallas native begins the 2009 season Friday at No. 3 Florida as the Big 12’s defending champion on the uneven bars, an event on which she was once a world champion.

Coach K.J. Kindler expects big contributions from Vise on the bars and balance beam as the Sooners try to build on their program-best eighth-place finish at nationals last year.

“It’s nice to see that she loves gymnastics again,” Vise’s mother LeeAnn said, “because for two years, I don’t think she did.”

The Hollie Vise Reclamation Project seems to be working.

It began 2½ years ago — “ground zero,” as Vise calls it — when she arrived at Oklahoma still reeling from the disappointment of not making the 2004 Olympic squad.

She had no motivation, no confidence and was woefully out of shape.

“I was let down a lot,” Vise said. Going to the Olympics “had been my goal for so long.”

Placing Vise on an intense cardio and strength conditioning program would be easy enough. But restoring Vise’s confidence was another matter.

“I do think she came in defeated from her experience at the elite level,” Kindler said. “There was a lot of pushing, and there was a lot of encouragement.”

Vise is a product of the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in Plano, Texas, the gym that produced the past two Olympic all-around champions, Carly Patterson in 2004 and Nastia Liukin in 2008.

After helping the U.S. win gold at the 2003 Worlds, Vise wanted one thing: A trip to the Olympics.

Hollie Vise performed on bars and beam at the 2003 World Championships in Anaheim.

Hollie Vise performed on bars and beam at the 2003 World Championships in Anaheim.

Vise was on top of the gymnastics world in 2003. At the World Championships, then-15-year-old Vise helped the United States win a team gold and won a share of the gold on bars with teammate Chellsie Memmel. That seemed to clear a path for Vise to the 2004 Athens Games.

But Vise was diagnosed with a compressed disc in her back early in 2004 and withdrew from the national championships in June that year. She was able to perform on the bars and beam at the Olympic Trials three weeks later, but back pain forced her to scale down her routines. At the final Olympic team selection camp a few weeks later, Vise fell off the beam in her last routine of the camp.

She was crushed when she didn’t hear her name called as the team was announced live on national television.

“The whole world saw me when I realized that all my dreams went down the drain,” Vise said.

Luikin knew that was a big blow for Vise. Not only did Vise endure the disappointment of not making the Olympics, but she watched Patterson, her close friend, become an instant celebrity by winning the all-around gold. Vise and Patterson trained alongside each other several years leading to the 2004 Games. Though Liukin trained with another group, she knows both very well.

“I was with her in the gym every single day and saw how much effort and how much determination she put into it,” said Liukin, a longtime friend of Vise. “To see her come up from a little short must have been real hard for her.”

Vise decided to take a break. It was supposed to be for a month or so, but then she withdrew from an overseas competition in early 2005.

“In my eyes, [gymnastics] wasn’t the same,” Vise said. “I just needed a break. … I wanted to try new things and live life a little.”

Vise didn’t resurface on the gymnastics scene until more than a year later.

She signed with Oklahoma in February 2006 under former Sooners coach Steve Nunno, who resigned shortly after signing day. Vise said Nunno wanted her to compete just on the beam in exchange for a full scholarship. That was easy enough for her.

But that deal wouldn’t fly with Kindler, who arrived at Oklahoma in the fall of 2006.

“I’m not a ride-the-wave kind of gal,” Kindler said. “We let her know that just doing the balance beam would be doing her and the team a disservice because she was such a talented athlete.”

Although Kindler had never met Vise before she arrived at Oklahoma, she was well aware of her credentials as a bars and beam specialist. Kindler couldn’t believe Vise didn’t want to compete in an event in which she owned a world championship.

But Kinder didn’t realize how far Vise had fallen. She could no longer do the simplest maneuvers on the bars.

“She couldn’t have done them, even if you had paid her a million dollars,” Kindler said.

“I was almost embarrassed because the last time a lot of these girls had seen me I was potentially going to be in the Olympics,” Vise said. “There were times when I asked myself, ‘Can I really come back from this?’ I knew deep down that if I put in the work, I could. But man, sometimes, it was so hard.”

Once a world gold-medalist on bars, Hollie Vise is the defending Big 12 champion on the event. Kindler said if Vise was going to pull through, she was going to have to redefine what success was.

“For her to have failed in that ultimate goal in her life was tragic for her,” Kindler said. “She had to have a different expectation level. She had to reinvent the wheel and realize that she had a lot to offer.”

Fellow junior Kristin Smith said the team rallied around the former world champion.

“It’s been motivating to see what she’s gone through,” Smith said. “It’s pushed us even more and has brought us all together.”

The process of building herself back up has given Vise a renewed appreciation for gymnastics. The fact she trains about half the amount she did when she was in peak form has helped. Now that she has more time for school and friends, Vise said she could never put herself through the rigors of Olympic training again.

And when she catches up with Patterson and Liukin, the subject is rarely about gymnastics. That suits Vise just fine.

“I still love gymnastics, but it doesn’t define my life anymore,” Vise said. “I just feel like a normal person.”

Vise looked very out of shape during her freshman year, but her fans were delighted to see her rally last season. Like the majority of elites-turned-NCAA gymnasts, Vise’s bar routine is less complex, but some of her big moves, including her piked Jaeger, are still there.

NCAA Gymnastics: 2009 letters of intent

November 15, 2007

So far, here’s who’s going where in 2009:

Oklahoma University Women’s Gymnastics has signed 2006 World team member Natasha Kelley, Sara Stone and Megan Ferguson, while the men’s team received letters of intent from Patrick Piscitelli, Chad Crumley and Troy Nitzky.  

Signing Kelley is a coup for Oklahoma coach K.J. Kindler, who spent several years at Iowa State before taking over for a scandal-plauged Steve Nunno. Nunno’s greatest contribution to Oklahoma was probably getting 2003 World bars champ Hollie Vise, although Vise’s contribution to the Sooners thusfar has been mostly having her name attached to its gymnastics program. It’s a reason for someone like Kelley to be interested.

Natasha Kelley has signed a letter of intent to compete for the University of Oklahoma.

Oregon State has gotten the yes from Adonica Glatt, Leslie Mak and Canadian Stephanie McGregor.

That’s it for now. As Rick at Gymnastics Coaching pointed out earlier today, the top five college-eligible elites in the nation (ranked by GymGemz, a site focusing on college gymnastics) are 2007 U.S. Championships runner-up Shayla Worley, recently retired elite Bianca Flohr, WOGA’s Christa Tanella, tumbling ace Randy Stageberg and Olympic sleeper Darlene Hill.

Worley and perhaps Hill may hold off saying yes to any school before the 2008 Olympic Trials, although from what I understand a letter of intent doesn’t marry a gymnast to a particular university.

And as any one of the to-be reunited Magnificent Seven could tell you, there’s enough to be made to pay for several educations if you happen to be on an Olympic gold medal-winning team.

Church to compete for UCLA this winter

November 11, 2007

UCLA Gymanstics announced this week that Californian Shavahn Church, a member of the British team at the 2005 World Championships, will compete for UCLA during the upcoming season.

Shavahn Church

As Terin Humphrey did at the University of Alabama in 2004, Church will enroll beginning winter quarter, meaning she’ll have her first classes within days of competing in her first meet — or vice-versa.

Church, who was a U.S. standout as a junior, exercised her dual citizenship rights to become a member of the British National Team. She was injured in 2007 and was not on the British team that competed in Stuttgart in September.

Shavahn Church, 2005 World Championships All-Around, Uneven Bars: (Check out the toe-on Shaposhnikova in the piked position, done in combination with a Pak salto — the skill is named after her.)

Church’s ties to UCLA run deep. She’s spent the past few years training with UCLA assistant coach Chris Waller and apparently has a long history with UCLA Gymnastics doyenne Valorie Kondos Field.

“I have known Shavahn since she was nine years old, and I have always felt that she was the epitome of an artistic gymnast,” said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field. “She is as brilliant in her artistry of the sport as she is exciting with her gymnastics skills.”

Church is likely to make an already competitive UCLA squad even more so. The Bruins already boast 2000 Olympic team member Tasha Schwikert, Allison Taylor, Kristina Comforte, Anna Li and former Canadian standout Marci Bernholtz.

One has to wonder if she’s still planning on being a part of the British Olympic team given this decision.

In other NCAA news, 2006 U.S. Championships runner-up Natasha Kelley has announced her intention to compete for the University of Oklahoma next year.

Natasha Kelley and coaches part ways

October 25, 2007

Olympic hopeful Natasha Kelley is now training with Terry and Tamara Walker at Cypress Gymnastics Academy in Houston.

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.