Alternate Gymnasts Gain Experience at Camp

By Dick Patrick
The Geneva Times

When coaches and seven members of the United States Olympic women's gymnastic team are packing their official U.S. Olympic sunglasses, official athlete's foot powder, and official deodorant into their official luggage for the trip to Montreal, four women who have been on the Olympic training squad will end their affiliation with the team.

Jeanie Beadle, Janice Baker, Diane Dunbar and Tammy Manville -- the alternates on the squad -- have been training four hours daily with the team at Hobart College, ready to compete should one of the top seven become injured.

The alternates were the eighth through 11th finishers in the recent Olympic Trials, probably the most closely contested meet in the history of American women's gymnastics.  Previous national meets had been dominated by a small corps of gymnasts, but this year no one was assured of a place on the Olympic team.  Former Olympians and national champions failed to make the squad, including Ann Carr, winner of five gold medals in the 1975 Pan American Games.

Coach Dale Flansaas has said that the team is the most balanced the U.S. has produced and that there is little difference in the abilities of the first and 11th girl at camp.

Jeannie Beadle is a tiny 18-year-old sophomore at Louisiana State University who has a warm smile and a pleasing southern accent.  She is never idle at practices.  If she isn't working on a routine or talking with a coach, she is writing comments about her routines in a notebook.

"I try to work hard because this is what I came here for," she said.  "I want to make the most of the camp and take every opportunity of the great coaching they have here."

"In some ways it is tough to stay motivated.  I'll probably never use the compulsory routines we're learning.  But I take the corrections and apply them to my optionals.  You can learn a lot here."

At 15, Janice Baker of Central Square, N.Y. is the youngest member of the training squad.  In fact, she is younger than some members of the Junior Olympic team, which is practicing at Hobart in the afternoon.

She is doing what she would normally be doing every summer -- training hard.  "You learn a lot just by watching the other gymnasts and listening to the coaches," she said.  "It's a good experience for other camps I might go to."

And it is likely she will be attending more camps.  "She is an excellent natural athlete," said Baker's coach, Phil Davoli or the Syracuse School of Gymnastics.  "She could be incredible .  We're working on her head now.  She's got to learn to think more and keep her concentration."

Baker has made astounding improvement in 3 1/2 years in gymnastics, but her start was anything but a resounding success.  She fell off the balance beam seven times in her first competition.  "I couldn't do anything," she said of her beginnings in an elementary school physical education class.  "I looked really bad.  I used to get twos in competition."

For Diane Dunbar, camp is a chance to receive dance training. The 17-year-old senior from Pleasanton, Cal. has no dance instructor at home.

"It's not hard to get motivated when you're on the Olympic training squad," she said.  "I'm glad to be here and obliged to train hard.  But you do get tired occasionally because there is no meet coming up."

Dunbar has had to limit her training the last few days due to a sprained ankle.  But she is going to Montreal with friends to observe the competition.

In 1975, at the Elite National Championships, Tammy Manville won the all-around title.  She defeated every member of the Olympic team except Kim Chace, who was then in retirement.

One month before the Olympic Trials, she broke her wrist.  She says the injury bothered her more mentally than physically.  "I was only able to work out two weeks before the Trials," she said, "and I worried that I didn't put enough work in."  She finished eighth in the Trials.

She has not had an easy camp, spraining her ankle badly on the second day of practice.  "I haven't been able to do much, but it's been a good experience," said Manville, who lives in Tempe, Ariz.  She has represented the U.S. in international competition against Japan, Romania and Canada, and is looking forward to the 1978 World Games.

There are rewards for the alternates.  Most of them will be making exhibition tours of Red China or South Africa or New Zealand after the Olympics.  If the Olympic Trials had been held at a different time or had one of their routines been a little smoother, then they might also be making a trip to Montreal.


This page was created on February 06, 2006.
Gymn Forum