A 32-year-old gymnast (and now, a mother of two) returned to the sport she loves after nine years retired, and is being lauded for her performance.
Gymnast Chellsie Memmel competed in two events at the GK US Classic in Indianapolis on Saturday, marking her return to the sport where she was the world all-around champion in 2005. She’s also earned Olympic glory, winning a silver medal in the 2008 games as part of the team competition, doing her uneven bars routine cleanly in the final despite breaking her ankle during training.
“I love doing gymnastics,” Memmel said following the competition, according to CNN. “There’s definitely are those hard days, but those days are the ones where I’m like remembering ‘You’re just pushing yourself. You’re having fun. You’re seeing how far you can actually take this when people said ‘you should have retired when you were 20 or when you’re 24. You can’t have kids and come back to a sport.”
“Memmel is not one of those athletes who can’t let go of her glory days,” said Nancy Armour in a USA Today piece celebrating her return to the sport. “Since her last competition – Classic in 2012 – Memmel has gotten married, had a son and a daughter, become a gymnastics judge and coached at her family’s gym in suburban Milwaukee. A comeback was the furthest thing from her mind.
“But she started playing around with some of her old skills about a year and a half ago, and was shocked at how easily they came back,” Armour noted. “The more she did, the more she found herself enjoying it. Why, she wondered, should she stop? Because of some arbitrary number? Because gymnastics is considered a sport for the young?”
Memmel competed in both the vault and balance beam event. She did well on the vault, and while she slipped during her balance beam routine, she got back on and finished out the routine.
Her performance didn’t qualify her for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics—which would have made this an even more phenomenal story—but she did do well enough to be able to compete in the upcoming national championship featuring the U.S.’s best gymnasts.
“The biggest thing for me is don’t be afraid to go after something, to set a goal,” Memmel said just before her momentous return to the sport. “And try not to listen to someone who tells you, ‘Yeah, you probably can’t do it.’ It should be about you and your journey and not listening to people who don’t think you can.”