My name is Robert Davis, and ever since I watched the 1984 Olympics on TV I’ve been intrigued by the sport of gymnastics. At the time I was 8 years old and I wrote down a goal for myself on a piece of Garfield stationary. I wanted to win 8 gold medals in the Olympics. I remember seeing that paper recently and when I find it again I’ll scan it in and post it here.
I was fortunate enough to have parents who were willing and able to sign me up for gymnastics training, and that soon replaced every other sport I had participated in (soccer, basketball, baseball, swimming, and diving) as my main extracurricular activity. I continued training and competing in gymnastics throughout elementary, middle, and high school in the different places we lived (Washington D.C. area, Chicago, and Phoenix). Then I joined the Arizona State University gymnastics team when I started school there in 1995.
During my college years I had 3 breaks from gymnastics – the first was from a near fatal car accident over winter break my freshman year, the second was from a bad leg injury my junior year, and the third was after getting married and moving out of state for a summer internship during graduate school. The first two breaks were due to injuries which took several months to recover from and caused me to miss my freshman and junior years of competition. The last break was due to a belief I had that I could not continue doing gymnastics after I began working full time (and being married). But after returning to school for my last year my wife and I decided to try out the “Body for Life” program using the book of the same name (pictured to the right). I had lost over 10 pounds in the 6 months since I stopped doing gymnastics so I had to think of some other goal for myself (besides losing weight) to make that program effective.
What I decided would be a stretch goal would be to ‘make the team’ again and compete for ASU on a few events during that school year. So after exercising with my wife in the student recreation center and at home for a couple of months I walked into the gym and explained to Head Coach Scott Barclay what I wanted to do. By then I had gained about half of the weight I had lost and I was able to get back into the swing of things fairly quickly, though I did not practice every day like before getting married.
I had a great time competing again but once I graduated and began working full time in 2001 I didn’t believe I could continue doing gymnastics. Then we began having children and my Olympic dream lay dormant for several years.
However, in October of 2008 I bought my own gymnastics mushroom. I can’t remember what the impetus was that spurred that purchase, but it got me thinking again about doing gymnastics, even in my own basement.
When Scott read my blog post about the mushroom he sent me an email and suggested I compete again at the Rocky Mountain Open (RMO), which is an annual competition hosted by the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs that is open to non-collegiate athletes as well. At the time I lived with my family in North Carolina, but we like to travel so after thinking about it for awhile I decided to shoot for the competition in January of 2010.
The next year (2009) we moved twice, and ended up back in Phoenix, AZ. I decided that I needed something to shoot for to get back on track with mushroom circle training, so I challenged the current (2009-2010) ASU men’s team to a circle contest on the pommel horse. When I was in college we had a ’50 circle club’ and a ’75 circle club’, and written on the wall with a permanent marker were all the guys who could do over 50 or 75 circles in a row on the pommel horse. It was a little friendly competition between us, but I was proud to be the only one in the 75 circle club.
I asked Scott if they had a 75 circle club at the new gym (Aspire, where the ASU men’s team trains) and he said they didn’t yet. So I made a goal for myself of doing 75 circles and told him I would come in for a circle contest with the team. I don’t think I gave myself enough time to prepare, but I wanted to come in on a Saturday before the season started (after which the team would be busy every weekend with competition and fund raising) so I jumped the gun a bit. I got up to 74 circles on the mushroom (easily) before coming in, but when I showed up I was only able to do 46 on the actual pommel horse.
I told Scott I would be back in a few weeks to try again, but the holidays came quickly and I didn’t progress much at home so I didn’t go back before the season started. I was pretty discouraged after that, because in order to practice at home I had to move some furniture and spend about 20 minutes warming up my wrists before I could do any circles, and I felt I had lost my window of opportunity for another year anyway.
A few months later, my wife got me a pair of gymnastics rings for fathers day in 2010, and I set them up hanging from my chin-up bar in a doorway so the kids and I could play with them. In the fall when it was cool enough outside I set them up in the garage, and soon had them hanging with a full sized mattress underneath to play on. On Thanksgiving I decided I really could compete at the RMO so I began training in earnest.
This blog is (and will continue to be) a collection of stories about being a gymnast for a lifetime. I believe I will always be doing gymnastics in some capacity. Like Jackie Chan said in the recent Karate Kid movie – “Kung Fu is life”, I feel the same way about gymnastics.