1917-2011 Born: Cleveland, Ohio
Joe Giallombardo is one of the many who found that winning individual medals and setting records at the elite collegiate level just wasn’t enough. He made a career of the sport and contributed to the development of many top gymnasts as a mentor and coach. He has the distinction of being the only high school gymnastics coach to have been honored twice by the College Coaches’ Association.
National Collegiate Athletic Association, (NCAA) Coach Joe Giallombardo is the men’s co-record holder in the number of times he won an individual NCAA event championship. His best event was tumbling where he shined during his day. There is some distinction between the AA events of today and the manner in which a gymnast became an AA Champion in the ‘30’s. Abide Grossfeld writes that the AA of Joe’s day refers to the total score amassed through choosing four or five events from what was probably TU, RC, PH, PB, HB, & FR. The AA program of the day was not necessarily the Olympic AA. He won Gold-TU, (1938, ’39, ’40); Gold-AA, (1938, ’39, ’40); Gold-FR, (1938). This total of seven NCAA gold medals while competing for the University of Illinois still stands as a record today. Ohio State High School Championships: Gold-TU, (1933, ’34, & ’35). Big Ten Gymnastic Championships: Gold-AA, (1938 & ’39); Gold-TU, (1938, ’39, & ’40). Joe concedes that “The still rings were my weakest event” but his contemporaries suggest that the PH, PB, & HB were not exceptionally strong. Nevertheless, his AA Championships were impressive, but they were probably not the Olympic AA events. He chose and won his AA championship events according to his skill level on each. After retiring from competion, Joe taught at New Trier High School in the Chicago area between 1940 and 1975. Judge: While teaching high school, Joe was very active in judging and served as a judge at numerous Big Ten Conference Championships. He also judged at several NCAA National Gymnastics Championships. Honors/Awards: Joe is the recipient of virtually every award available in the sport of gymnastics, but he is most proud of being awarded the “A.R. Rizzuto Award.” This award is given to outstanding American Athletes, of any sport, of Italian extraction. In 1976, he was the recipient of the Honor Coach Award that reads as follows: “In recognition of service in coaching and developing gymnastics for over twenty-five years, Coach Giallombardo has gained the respect of his associates in the gymnastics world by his inspiring example and accomplishments.” In addition, Joe was a recipient of the College Coaches Association Honorary Lifetime Member Award. Coach Giallombardo is an Inductee into the Illinois High School Gymnastics Coaches Hall of Fame, The Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame and received a special Olympic Judges Diploma at the 20th World Games in Dallas, TX. The ultimate award in gymnastics, the Helms Hall of Fame Award was presented to Joe in 1966.
Sources: With permission and courtesy of Mr. Jerry Wright, author of Gymnastics Who’s Who, 2005. Editing by Abie Grossfeld, 1979 GHOF Honoree with introduction, commentary, and formatting by Dr. Larry Banner, Web Manager.