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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.”
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.
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.”
Memmel finished her night on balance beam – she skipped floor exercise – and her routine was cleaner than it was two weeks ago at the U.S. Classic, which was her first competition in nine years. Her aerial series looked effortless, and she managed to save the landing of an aerial somersault with a twist this time despite being a little off-balance.
She’d fallen on the skill two weeks ago.
When Memmel finished, she exchanged a big hug with her dad and coach, Andy, and pumped her fists at the crowd, which gave her the biggest cheers of the night for a gymnast not named Simone Biles.
“It was just a major exhale and sigh of relief. Like, `I did it. I made my beam routine,’” Memmel said. “That was huge. I felt very, very proud of that.”
No doubt her kids were, too.
Memmel wasn’t even married the last time she competed at the elite level. Now she and husband Kory Maier have a 6-year-old son, Dashel, and a 3-year-old daughter, Audrielle. The kids often join Memmel during her workouts at the gym her family owns, but this was their first time seeing her at a competition.
They wore shirts with Memmel’s name on them, and sat with Maier and other relatives. In a video Memmel posted of her warming up on vault, Dashel and Audrielle could be heard cheering her on.
“We sat in front of (Memmel’s) crew & omgosh hearing her kids scream `go mommy’ and her grandma sobbing after everything Chellsie did was the most beautiful thing everrrr,” Gina Chiles, whose daughter Jordan was competing alongside Memmel, said on Twitter. “Jordan’s sisters were getting emotional with them…can’t help but cheer!!”
'JUST BE JORDAN': How Chiles has positioned herself for Tokyo Olympics
Too often, we abandon our dreams because they seem crazy or unrealistic. But there's no such thing. Only people not brave enough to chase them.
Thanks for the reminder, Chellsie Memmel.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Chellsie Memmel gymnastics comeback already success at US championship