FORT WORTH, Texas — Cheers of “C’mon Mom!” and “Go Mama!” aren’t normally heard at the U.S. gymnastics championships.
That they are this week is just another indication of the extraordinariness of what Chellsie Memmel is doing.
Three weeks shy of her 33rd birthday and with her two children in the crowd, the 2005 world champion is competing at nationals for the first time in 10 years. More than holding her own, too. Memmel tied for fifth on vault on Friday night – with a vault she hadn’t done since 2006, no less – and had the sixth-highest score on balance beam.
“Day 1 is done! I just want to say thank you everybody so much for all of the support and encouragement on this journey. It’s amazing,” Memmel said afterward on Instagram Stories. “I totally, completely felt the love tonight, and hope for another great night on Sunday.”
15 years apart! Chellsie Memmel competed the yurchenko double once again! You love to see it! @CMemmelpic.twitter.com/AuG5slMmn0
Whether Memmel makes it to the Olympic trials later this month is, at this point, irrelevant. The 2008 Olympic silver medalist has proven to herself, and everyone watching, that you don’t have to stop doing something just because you’ve reached a certain age or because other people tell you to.
What began as something of a family joke has become an important reminder of the endless possibilities when you are true to yourself and have the courage to follow your passions. Regardless of how crazy they might seem to others.
“It’s showing (my kids) they can work hard and go for something, and it doesn’t matter when you do it or someone says, `You’re too old to be doing that,’ or `Why? Why would you even go back and try?’” Memmel told USA TODAY Sports last month.
Especially when she can still do world-class gymnastics.
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After Memmel did a Yurchenko double on vault, gymnastics fans quickly found video of the last time she’d done it at nationals and posted them side-by-side. The one she did Friday was clearly superior, with a much better block, cleaner form in the air and just a step back to steady herself on the landing.
She did come off uneven bars, but she said afterward that this was actually the first full routine she had done.
“I was just going to see how it went,” Memmel said, laughing. “… I haven’t had to deal with the nerves and butterflies yet on bars, so I was honestly really happy with that. Getting it in two parts, I’m good.”
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