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Biography: HILLIARD, Wendy


Inducted: 2008

Prelude to Rhythmic Gymnastics

The history of Rhythmic Gymnastics can be traced as far back as 1814 by Per Henrik Ling. Ling promoted aesthetic gymnastics in which students expressed their feelings and emotions through bodily movement but it was still calisthenics without apparatus.  Then it 1864 proponents of the activity began utilizing wooden hoops, light dumbbells, and Indian clubs. Indian clubs became a favorite exercise tool with entire books being written for club exercises.  A rope was first used by a Swedish group around the 1930’s. The Hoop became more popular after a demonstration at the 1936 Olympic Games. Ellen Nyemcsik was kind enough to also furnish the following: “The Floor event was called Exercise without Implement. It was a Rhythmic Gymnastics dance routine performed to music without using apparatus. Exercise without Implement was part of FIG All Around competition years ago. But as the sport developed, the FIG eventually changed the program to 4 events using all 4 of the apparatus. All of our current USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic program competitors (in Levels 3-8) have this floor event as part of the regular All-Around competition today. Our USA gymnasts compete in the Floor event until they reach the FIG level (Levels 9-10). Then they compete only with the apparatus at these high levels.”

Wendy Hilliard has long been a major force in women’s sports. In 1978, she became the first African American to represent the United States in international competitions and remained on the Rhythmic Gymnastics National Team a record-setting nine times; serving twice as National Team Captain.

Champion Competitor:A National and International Gold Medalist, Ms. Hilliard, represented the U.S. in over 15 foreign countries and three World Championships (1979, 1981, 1983), retiring from competition in 1988. A Diverse Career: Wendy stayed with her sport and became a four-time U.S. National Team Coach and her gymnast Aliane Baquerot, was a 1996 Olympian. Ms. Hilliard served as the National Spokesperson for Rhythmic Gymnastics for ten years. Since 1989, Ms. Hilliard has been an analyst, host and interviewer covering rhythmic and artistic gymnastics and other sports for CBS, ESPN and at the 1992 Summer Olympics for NBC. In addition to broadcasting and speaking engagements, she conducts clinics worldwide and is a guest performer, announcer and choreographer for gymnastic tours and television specials. She has performed with the world’s finest gymnasts including Nadia Comaneci, Bart Conner, Shannon Miller, Vitaly Scherbo, and Kurt Thomas and choreographed for Olympic Gold Medalist, Dominique Dawes. Ms. Hilliard is a founding member and an Associate Director, choreographer and featured performer with the New York-based international dance/gymnastics company, “ANTIGRAVITY.” She made her Broadway debut in April 1997; in the musical “Candide, ” directed by Tony Award Winner, Harold Prince.

The Beginning: Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Ms. Hilliard studied broadcasting and Russian language at Wayne State University in Detroit and graduated with honors from New York University.

Helping Others: Wendy Hilliard was the first African American and gymnast to become the President of the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1995. Wendy’s own non–profit organization, the Wendy Hilliard Foundation, has provided free gymnastics for over 10,000 inner city youth in NYC since 1996. Ms Hilliard was the athlete representative for gymnastics to the United States Olympic Committee and served on the Executive Committee of USA Gymnastics for over ten years. She has performed on numerous television shows and tours with the world’s top gymnasts and also performed on Broadway. She also contributed to the U.S. bid Olympic for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. As a member of the Senior Staff, her responsibilities included overseeing all of the sports and athlete issues concerning the bid; including over 2000 Olympians and Paralympians worldwide that supported the bid.
She also traveled to International Olympic Committee meetings representing NYC 2012. In 2006, she designed and opened a 15,000 square foot gymnastics center for Aviator Sports and Recreation; a new multi- million/multi-sport complex in Brooklyn, NY. Along with her foundation, Ms. Hilliard is currently a sports consultant with Aviator Sports and Recreation and Riverbank State Park. Wendy resides in Harlem with her husband, Robert Mensah and sons Kennedy and Bailey.

SOURCES: Data obtained from the Wendy Hilliard Foundation website: .  Ball photo obtained from public sources (Google) by 2008-1010 Web Manager, Jerry Wright, author of Gymnastics Who’s Who-2010. Ribbon photo submitted by Wendy Hilliard. Editing by Dr. Larry Banner, 1993 GHOF Inductee & 1894-2007 Web Manager.


Biography: DENTON, William Thomas

DENTON, William Thomas

Inducted: 1963

Tom Denton was a member of the first class of American gymnasts to medal in the Olympic Games. In 1932, the Olympics were for amateurs only, and that meant amateur! An athlete had to pay for his or her own transportation, lodging, meals, and any other expenses necessary to be eligible to compete in the Olympics. Denton probably sacrificed greatly to get to Los Angeles, considering it was the middle of the great depression. But his sacrifice truly counted for the U.S. He and George Gulack were to be the last Olympic gymnastic individual event medals to be won by an American for 44 years.

Olympic Games: Silver-SR, Los Angeles, CA-USA. George Gulack of the USA won the gold. Denton was a United States Military Academy graduate and furthered his gymnastics training under 1959 Hall of Fame Inductee Louis “Bud” Mang. Eastern College Athletic Association (ECAA) Championships:  Silver-FR, (1931); Gold-FR, (1932 & ’33).

Source: Jerry Wright, author of Gymnastics Who’s Who, 2005 courteously provided data and photo. Introduction and formatting by Dr. Larry Banner, Web Manager.

Biography:COCO, William “Bill”

COCO, William “Bill”  (1931-1976)

Inducted: 1978
Born: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Bill Coco was a coach who commanded the respect of all with whom he worked as well as those who knew of his work but did not know him personally.  Gymnastic coaches who produce winners on a national and international level seldom if ever find themselves standing on a medal podium even though their character is of medal-winning caliber.  Bill Coco’s character and talent had to consist of extreme pride in his family, his charges, his work, and the positive influence he exerted on so many in the gymnastic world.  To lose such a man at an early age is unfortunate for all, but had he lived a long life, I’ll venture to write that thousands more would have had the privilege of learning from him.  For those of you who read about his life in gymnastics, he is, in fact, continuing to teach. Thank you, Bill, for what you have accomplished and what you will continue to accomplish as young people read about your life and accomplishments in our great sport.

Bill Coco was a gymnast at Temple University (1950-1954) where he earned his B.S. in Physical Education. After completing additional university studies, he began a 12 year teaching and coaching career in the Philadelphia Public School system. He was recruited as Temple University’s Head Gymnastic Coach, (1968), and remained in that position until 1973. Beyond his regular school assignments, Bill taught gymnastics in the Philadelphia Department of Recreation Program and founded the Mannettes Girls’ Team at the Mann Recreation Center, (1958). During Bill’s tenure at Temple, the Mannettes trained at the university facility, (1969-1973). Bill’s wife, Ginny, worked with him in their gymnastics business, (1962-1976), then returned to teaching. Ginny was honored as Pennsylvania’s Teacher of the Year, (1991) and retired as a Department Chairperson in Health and Physical Education and Athletic Director, (2001). Later, the Mannettes moved into their own facility. During his coaching career, Coco produced three World Championship team members, two U. S. Olympic Team members, and two Pan American Games team members.  Coach Coco’s Mannettes won National AAU team titles in the early 1970’s. His most prominent gymnast, Joan Moore, (later Joan Rice-Gnat) won USGF Gold-AA, (1971-1974). In NCAA Division One, his gymnastics team at Temple U. won Bronze-Team, (1970). He worked equally well with the men as well as the women gymnasts. Temple senior Pete DiFurio garnered the Nissen Award, gymnastics’ equivalent of football’s Heisman Trophy. Five or more junior college transfers such as Tom Pica and Dale Smith did well under his tutelage. Other gymnasts who made national teams and were trained by Coco are Fred Turoff, Janet Cantwell, Roxanne Pierce, Ann Carr, and Ron Clemmer.  Bill also coached Barry Weiner, the current Head Gymnastic Coach at the University of California, Berkeley.  Bill was chosen to manage the 1966 U. S. World Championship team, and he served as a member of the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Committee.  He co-founded the Eastern Gymnastics Clinic that operated during the summers of 1963-1972, and he was one of the original five directors of the U.S. Elite Coaches Association. The USEGA was directed by five members purposely so there would be coverage at all meets and times. The original five were Bill Coco, Jim Gault, Vannie Edwards, Jim Fountaine, and Bruce Davis. Bill was always on the side of the young gymnasts, and his instant hot temper was a strong factor in bailing out someone in trouble. He was a man of high energy and strong principles and earned the deepest admiration from the gymnasts, coaches, and others with whom he interacted.  In fact, numerous active and retired athletes, coaches, and others who knew Bill and his work consider that he influenced many of the older leading coaches in the eastern United States today. At age 44, Bill passed after a short battle with an aggressive cancer.  All who knew him or about him were shocked at his early demise. Karl Schier writes, “ My friendship with Bill enabled me to recruit Ann (Carr) at the same time as my arrival at Penn State in 1976.  His last national participation was as a contributor to the first USGF Safety manual conference held at Camp Woodward in the Fall, right after the Olympics that summer . . . Bill was a great guy respected by all.” Family: m. Virginia C. Harvey, “Ginny”. Two children, Michael, who lives in Mammoth Lakes, CA where he is the chef/owner of the Thai’d restaurant and an avid skier, and Gini Beth Eberling, who lives in Mount Laurel, NJ. Three grandchildren: Eric, Bill, and Andrew Eberling.

Sources: Gratitude is expressed to Fred Turoff for historical data & Coco photo and to Mrs. Coco for information only she could provide. Thanks also for the help of Jerry Wright, author of Gymnastics Who’s Who, 2005 and also to A. Bruce Frederick, author of Who’s Who in American Gymnastics, Bruce Davis, and Abie Grossfeld for their editing services and suggestions. Introduction, commentary, and formatting by Dr. Larry Banner, Web Manager.

Biography: Wendy Cluff-Perez

Cluff-Perez, Wendy

Inducted: 2012
Born:  Santa Clara, CA

One of the original SCATS athletes, Cluff-Perez participated in the 1968 Olympics, 1969 World Gymnaestrada in Berne, Switzerland, and performed throughout Europe, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom.

Olympics: Cluff went first for the U.S. women at the 1968 Olympics seven times and is credited with earning the USA’s highest starting scores at an Olympic Games at that time. Results: Member of the 6th place U.S.A. team; 39th in the All Around-71.80 (C-36.10-O-35.70), 42nd in Floor Exercise -18.05 (C-9.10-O-8.95), 58th in Vault-17.80 (C-9.05-O-8.75), 46th in Uneven Bars-17.75 (C-8.75-O-9.0), 33rd Balance Beam-18.20 (C-9.20-O-9.00).   World Championships: Cluff- Perez also represented the United States at the 1970 World Championships in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia where she placed 44th in the AA and was a member of the 7th place Team.   Other International Competitions: She was fifth in the all-around at the USA-USSR Invitational at Penn State University.   National Competitions: AAU: 1967-Bronze-Tumbling; 1968-9th AA, Silver-Tumbling; 1970-4th AA, Bronze-V, Silver-FX.  USGF-1969-4th AA, 1970-Silver-AA.
Coaching:  At 20, she retired from competitive gymnastics to start Gymnastics Internationale, where she coached for 10 years before moving to the San Diego Aztecs for three years. Personal: Cluff Perez is currently in her 16th year as an elementary school teacher and lives in a small community in San Diego County. She earned a Bachelor of Science in interior design from California State University – Long Beach and both her Bachelor of Arts in liberal arts/teaching and her Masters of Arts in education curriculum and instruction at San Diego State University.  Wendy was unable to attend her Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.  Family:  Husband-Henry;

Sources:   Photo I.D. (1968 U.S. Women’s Olympic Team) F: Joyce Tanac, Linda Metheny; M: Cathy Rigby, Diane Bolin, Colleen Mulvihill, Muriel Grossfeld (Coach), B: Kathy Gleason, Caroline Pingatore, Wendy Cluff Calabro, Vannie Edwards (Assistant Coach).  Source of the group  photo: Photo of young Wendy by permission of the U.S. Olympic Committee.  Data and photos collected and edited by 2008-2013 Web Manager Jerry Wright, author of Gymnastics Who’s Who-2010.  Additional editing by Dr. Larry Banner, 1993 GHOF Inductee & 1894-2007 Web Manager, Ph.D. & Ed.D.

Biography: BUFFA, William

BUFFA, William (1920-2005)
Inducted: 1988


Stalwart Of YMCA Gymnastics

According to Buffa, he joined the West Side YMCA in New York City at age 15. He became a YMCA Leader and boy’s gymnast coach in 1940.  He came under the influence of Anton Klar, whom he regarded as his primary coach. Klar was a former national AAU champion on pommel horse (1910) who competed for the Bohemian Sokol. Buffa became a two-time National AAU rings champion (1943 & 1948) and placed second several times.  According to Helen Schifano Sjursen, the 1948 Olympian and very active in New Jersey YMCA gymnastics, Buffa introduced the “L” Cross and a straight body pull/press from hang to handstand on rings. George Gulack, a gold medalist on rings at the 1932 Olympics and later Chairman of the National AAU Gymnastics Committee, guided Buffa to his first title on rings in 1943. Buffa dominated the Metropolitan AAU in this event winning ten rings titles between 1939 and 1954. By 1941, he became the gymnastics leader at the Westside “Y” and coached as a volunteer for more than a quarter of a century. His leadership extended to the Metropolitan AAU and he was highly regarded by Roy E. Moore of the national AAU office and other city leaders in gymnastics. During his years at the “Y,” John Pesha, Abie Grossfeld and Pat Bird came under his influence. At the suggestion of Moore and with the support of Dr. Harold Friermood, National YMCA Secretary, Buffa founded the National YMCA Gymnastics Committee in 1953 and he dedicated the majority of his career to the advancement of “Y” gymnastics contributing to a number of publications inclusive of a Comprehensive Gymnastics Guide written together with his friend and YMCA Coach, John Van Aalten. He initiated a “Y” Gymnastics Newsletter and National “Y” Championships the first of which was conducted at the Brooklyn Central YMCA in 1954. He initiated the National YMCA Women’s Championships as well.  In 1983, the YMCA honored Buffa for thirty years of service. He was elected to the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1988 as an Athlete, Coach and Contributor. Buffa worked professionally as a computer systems engineer for IBM and was retired living in Connecticut at the time of his death. He loved to paint and had a number of his paintings hanging in his home. Buffa was also a consummate storyteller. He is survived by his wife Jeannette, a son and a daughter.

Sources: Sjursen, Helen, “End of an Era: William Buffa Retires from the YMCA.”  International Gymnast. August, 1984, p. 40.
Buffa’s Biographical Information Questionnaire, April, 2000.

Biography: BONSALL, William

BONSALL, William
Inducted: 1983
Born: December 31, 1923

Olympic Gymnast, War Hero, and Hall of Fame Coach, Bill Bonsall is the past become the future and the future that is the past.

Olympic Games: Team member, London, England, (1948). Originally from Philadelphia, PA, Bonsall attended Philadelphia’s Bartram High School and was a member of that school’s inaugural men’s gymnastics team in 1939. Bonsall was and may still be the only Olympian to have graduated from Bartram High. He then attended Penn State, where he was a member of the 1942-‘43 NCAA championship teams. Following his freshman campaign, Bonsall enlisted in the U.S. Army and was among the forces that landed at Normandy on D-Day. German forces captured Bonsall on September 5, 1944, at Dinant, Belgium. Bonsall was held until he made a daring escape to Warsaw, Poland, via Russia, on January 31, 1945. He returned to the United States later that year and, after his discharge, re-enrolled at Penn State U. picking up his career where he left off. National AAU Championships: Gold-R, (1946); Silver-AA, Bronze-V, 4th-FX, (1948); Silver-AA, (1949).  NCAA: Silver-AA & FR, Bronze-HB, 4th– FX, (1948). Overall, Bonsall’s Penn State career included two NCAA championships, two All-America awards and two second-place finishes in the NCAA all-around competition. Education: After graduating from Penn State in 1949, the Olympian went to West Virginia U. where he earned his master’s degree in 1950. Coaching: Bonsall was the first coach of the West Virginia University men’s gymnastics program and served 31 years as the Mountaineer mentor. WVU gymnastics was a club sport when Bonsall began, and he became the university’s first men’s Head Gymnastics Coach when the program was elevated to varsity status in 1952. During his career, Bonsall led the Mountaineers to three Southern Conference championships and a fifth-place national finish in 1963. He retired from coaching in 1980. Honors/Awards: Bonsall was named to the United States Gymnastics Hall of Fame, (1983); the West Virginia Sports Writers’ Hall of Fame, (1991); and the WVU School of Physical Education Hall of Fame, (1991).

Sources: Courtesy of major contributions by A. Bruce Frederick, author of Who’s Who and Was Who in American Gymnastics, Jerry Wright, author of Gymnastics Who’s Who, 2005, and the editing services of Abie Grossfeld, 1979 Hall of Fame Honoree. Introduction, commentary, and formatting by Larry Banner, Web Manager


Inducted: 2007
Born: Los Angeles, California-USA

Prelude to Rhythmic Gymnastics

The history of Rhythmic Gymnastics can be traced as far back as 1814 by Per Henrik Ling. Ling promoted aesthetic gymnastics in which students expressed their feelings and emotions through bodily movement but it was still calisthenics without apparatus. Then it 1864 proponents of the activity began utilizing wooden hoops, light dumbbells, and Indian clubs. Indian clubs became a favorite exercise tool with entire books being written for club exercises. A rope was first used by a Swedish group around the 1930’s. The Hoop became more popular after a demonstration at the 1936 Olympic Games.

Ellen Nyemcsik was kind enough to also furnish the following: “The Floor event was called Exercise without Implement. It was a Rhythmic Gymnastics dance routine performed to music without using the apparatus. Exercise without Implement was part of FIG All Around competition years ago. But as the sport developed, the FIG eventually changed the program to 4 events using all 4 of the apparatus. All of our current USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic program competitors (in Levels 3-8) have this floor event as part of the regular All-Around competition today. Our USA gymnasts compete in the Floor event until they reach the FIG level (Levels 9-10). Then they compete only with the apparatus at these high levels.” (Elite

Valerie Zimring is another example of bad luck leading to great luck. She suffered a stress fracture in her back just as her talent was being recognized. She could no longer have the aspirations of being a great artistic gymnast, but she found that she could still perform on the other side of the gym with the rhythmic gymnasts; in fact, she could out perform them. So began the fruitful competitive life for Valerie in competitive rhythmic gymnastics.

Alarming Beginning: Valerie Zimring was fast becoming a talented Artistic gymnast even though she had been learning and training for only three years; however, at about 11 years of age, she found that she had a stress fracture in her back. She had just made the Class I level in Artistic gymnastics. Not to be diverted from a world she had come to love, she turned to Rhythmic gymnastics and became a shining star. In a 1985 “IG Interview” article, Valerie agreed that the change to rhythmic gymnastics was a blessing since she thought, that while her FX & BB were coming along, she never really had the aggressiveness that is required of tumbling and performing tricks. She said, “ . . . I think I’ve done a lot better in Rhythmic than I would have done in Artistic.” You can’t keep a good woman down is a phrase that isn’t used enough. USAG Junior Rhythmic Championships: Gold-AA, Rope, Ball and Clubs, (1978).  Olympic Games: Team member-rhythmic gymnast, Los Angeles, California-USA, (1984). World Championship: Team member-rhythmic gymnastics, Munich, Germany, (1981); Strasbourg, France, (1983). Valerie was a member of the U.S. Rhythmic National Team from 1979-85. USAG National Rhythmic Championships: Gold-AA & Hoops, (1984). Education: B.A at UCLA, (1989); M.A. in program-dance, UCLA, (1991). Keeping Perspective: In response to a question from the aforementioned “IG” interviewer about what she enjoyed best about her Rhythmic travels. Valerie told of a competition in Rio (de Janeiro), Brazil in 1980. “ . . . I loved it there because I love the beach. After the competition, the team was scheduled to tour the country. The tour was cancelled, and we had to stay on the beach.” She related this story suggesting that the beach was just fine with her. She also told of her love for travel but she likes the U.S. best. An admirable trait that Valerie exhibits is that she is extremely complimentary about her coach, Valla Svirsky, 1997 USGHOF Inductee. “Alla helped me not only physically doing the exercises and in choreographing the routines, but mentally she’s always been there for me to prepare myself before competition. She was always very positive, telling me to prepare myself before competition.” She attributes her success to Svirsky’s ability to overcome the mental barrier that sometimes kept her from doing her best.  General: Zimring-Schneiderman has worked for NBC Sports as a technical advisor during two Olympic Games (1988, 1996) and has done television commentary work. Family: (m) Ross Schneiderman. Children: Zach and Will, both of whom have begun their teen-age lives.

Sources: International Gymnast’s “IG Interview”, (1985) that was shared by Jerry Wright, author of Gymnastics Who’s Who, 2005 and USAG Press Release dated May 9, 2007. Introduction and formatting by Dr. Larry Banner, Web Manager.

Biography: D’AUTORIO, “Vinny” Vincent

D’AUTORIO, “Vinny” Vincent (1915-2008)

Inducted: 1971
Born: Newark, NJ

Vincent D’Autorio is another Hall of Fame Honoree who was forced to balance work, service to his country, and gymnastic training. He was a two time Olympian who competed in an era that featured some of America’s best gymnasts including Bill Roetzheim, George Wheeler, Ed Scrobe, Frank Cumiskey and Al Jochim. Although he never won a national AAU title, the jeweler/soldier from Newark was frequently among the top ten all-around gymnasts nationally prior to WWII.

Olympic Games: Team member & second leading U.S. scorer, London, England, (1948);Helsinki, Finland, (1952). At age 36, Vince was the oldest American on record to compete on a U.S. Olympic Gymnastic Team.  This record may stand to this day. The National Collegiate Gymnastics Alumni Association also named D’Autorio an Honorary Member of the 1944 Olympic Team. Metropolitan AAU Championships: Silver-AA & PH, Bronze-PB, (1942); Silver-AA & PH, Bronze-FX, HB, & PB, (1946); Gold-FX & PH, Silver-AA, PB, HB, (1948); Gold-PH, Silver-AA, Bronze-FX & V; Gold-AA & PH, (1954). National AAU Championships: Bronze-PH, (1942); Silver-PH, Bronze-FX, (1943); 4th-PH, HB, & AA, (1947); 4th-AA, 5th-PH, (1950); 6th-HB, 4th-PH, (1951); 5th-PH, 6th HB, & 8th-AA, (1952). General: Vinny was the oldest of ten children raised in Newark, NJ. He became interested in gymnastics in high school, first at Central HS and then at Eastside HS. He won the Newark City High School Championships during his junior year. The family did not have the funds for college, so Vinny became an apprentice jeweler and spent 25 years in the business. He did find time to teach gymnastics for Bonnie Prudden in White Plains, NY. Coincidently, Ms. Prudden was dating Dr. Hans Kraus, JFK’s personal back physician. These intertwined relationships may have been part of the geneses of JFK’s President’s Youth Physical Fitness Program. After Bonnie Pruden closed school, Vinny opened a gymnastic school in Westchester County. There were about 12 high schools in the county and he helped develop gymnastic programs at each of them. After about three years, he orchestrated a Westchester County Gymnastics Championship program that provided a strong incentive for young gymnasts to be the best they could be. Vinny enjoyed a long and illustrious career in gymnastics.  He was at his peak and ready to make the 1940 U. S. Olympic Team, but the games were cancelled due to WWII. Vinny served in the U.S. Army in the South Pacific, (1942-1945). To stay in shape, he hand balanced, made a trampoline out of rubber tires, and PB’s out of pipes. The fact that the Army Special Services arranged for him to compete in several city and national championships was a super boost, also. His training regimen worked, and he came back to make the two Olympic Teams as noted previously. He settled in Florida, invested in residential and commercial ventures in Sarasota and So. Carolina and was one of the fundamental developers of the National Gymnastic Clinic that was held during the Christmas school break. Coaching/Judging: Toward the end of his competitive career, Mr. D’Autorio coached at Panzer College and judged at numerous international competitions.  Family: m. Annette Pizza. Children: Two boys and one girl.

Sources: NCGAA Newsletter-April, 2002. Photo and historical text courtesy of Jerry Wright, author of Who’s Who in Gymnastics, 2005.  Appreciation is extended to A. Bruce Frederick, author of Who’s Who in American Gymnastics and Abie Grossfeld and Bruce Davis for their editing, suggestions, and comments.  Introduction, commentary, and formatting by Dr. Larry Banner, Web Manager.

Biography: TALAVERA, Tracee


Inducted: 1998
Born: San Francisco, California-USA

Tracee Talavera matured as an elite gymnastic competitor more quickly than seems possible. She is one of the few or the only gymnast to actually make an Olympic Gymnastic Team when she was still too young to compete. Coaches Dick and Linda Mulvihill, USGHOF Inductees, certainly had to feel they had a lot to work with in their gym when Tracee showed up. Tracee’s quick rise to the top had to make them proud. Tracee chose, for reasons of her own, to change coaches in the middle of her best years. As I read about Tracee Talavera, I cannot help but recall that I have known many athletes in different sports that were simply winners. Talavera appears to be one of them-simply a winner.

Tracee Talavera has competed in multiple national and Olympic competitions. Dick and Linda Mulvihill at the National Academy of Artistic Gymnastics coached her throughout most of her career. In 1983, Tracee switched gyms and coaches to work with Mike Lynch at Golden Gate Gymnastics in Concord, CA. Junior National  Championships: Gold-AA, UB, & BB, (1978). Olympic Games: Silver-Team, Los Angeles and 4th place V, CA-USA, (1984); Selected for Women’s Olympic Gymnastic Team in Moscow (qualified #1 for U.S. Team), but the U.S. boycotted these Games, and she did not compete, (1980). World Gymnastic  Championships: Tracee earned a place on the World Championship Team in 1979, but she was disallowed from competing due to her age. She was 13 years young. Bronze-BB, Moscow, USSR, (1981); USAG Championships: Gold-UB, Bronze-AA, 4th-FX, (1979); Silver-AA, Silver-UB, Silver-FX, (1980); Gold-AA & BB, (1981); Gold-AA, Silver-BB & UB, 4th FX, (1982); 8th AA, Gold-BB, Bronze-V, (1984). American Cup  Championships: Gold-UB, BB, & FX, Bronze-AA, (1979); Gold- AA, UB, BB, & FX, (1980); Silver-AA, (1981); Bronze-AA, (1982), Bronze-AA (P), Gold-BB. National Sports Festival: Gold-AA, UB, & BB, (1979), Gold-UB & BB, (1980). Additional International Competitions: Hungarian Inv. 7-AA, 4th UB and BB, (1979); Chunichi Cup, (1980); USA VS. China: Silver-AA, (1982); USA VS. USSR, (1983); USA VS. Canada, (1984). General: Tracee has a skill named after her, and it is acknowledged as a “Talavera” by the FIG. The skill consists of a series of “Flairs” on the BB. (See Insert)

Sources: Major data and photos courtesy of Jerry Wright, author of Gymnastics Who’s Who, 2005. Additional data provided by USA Gymnastics 2003-2004 Media Guide. Introduction, commentary, and formatting by Dr. Larry Banner, Web Manager.

Biography: SCHWIKERT, Tasha


Individually Inducted: 2012
Member-Gold Medal World Championships Team (2003)


The extreme honor of being selected to be the Captain of a Gold Medal winning World Championship Team can only be exceeded by an outstanding individual performances in that competition. Tasha Schwikert was up to the occasion in all respects.

Getting Started: The daughter of Shannon Warren and Joy Schwikert, Tasha Schwikert was born in Las Vegas, Nevada. She trained with coach Cassie Rice at GymCats club in Las Vegas, and was a member of USA Gymnastics’ TOPS developmental team in 1994 and 1995. At the age of thirteen, in 1998, she earned her first national team berth. Her first international meet was the 1998 City of Popes competition in France, where she won a silver medal on the floor exercise in the junior division. Olympic Games: Team alternate, (2004) Tasha was not called upon to compete. Bronze-Team, (2010). Schwikert first came to prominence as a member of the U.S. team for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Her presence on the team was controversial since she placed ninth at the Olympic Trials and, therefore, was not originally named to the team at all. Tasha was later asked to join the squad in Sydney as a second alternate. When team member Morgan White was injured in training, Schwikert became her replacement. Despite the questions over Schwikert’s qualification, she performed strongly under pressure. On April 28, 2010, Tasha and the other women on the 2000 Olympic team were awarded the bronze medal in the team competition when it was discovered that the previous medal winners, the Chinese team, had falsified the age of team member Dong Fangxiao. As a result of the falsification, Dong’s results were nullified, and the Chinese team was stripped of the medal by the IOC. Career From 2000: Schwikert was the only member of the 2000 team to continue competing at the elite level after the Olympics. She won the all-around titles at the 2001 U.S. Championships, the American Classic and the Pan American Championships. She participated in the 2001 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Ghent, where she led the U.S. team to a surprise bronze medal and was the USA’s highest finisher in the all-around, placing fifth. She qualified for the floor exercise and balance beam event finals. A medal was a possibility in the floor finals but she fell on her final tumbling pass. In 2002 Schwikert won the all-around titles at the Pacific Alliance and the American Cup, as well as her second U.S. Championships. However, in the fall of 2002, injuries prevented her from competing in the 2002 World Championships.

Schwikert tied for second at the 2003 U.S. Nationals. She was the captain of the 2003 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships team in Anaheim. In the team finals, she only competed on vault and uneven bars but performed both of her routines cleanly, posting the highest score of the American team on the vault and second highest score on the uneven bars. Her scores helped the American women win their first team gold medal in World Championships competition. At the 2004 U.S. Championships, still struggling with injuries, Schwikert won the uneven bars title but placed off the all-around podium for the first time since 2000. Collegiate Career: From 2004 to 2008, Schwikert was a member of the UCLA gymnastics team, competing on a full athletic scholarship. Schwikert’s younger sister, Jordan, was also a Bruin. She and Tasha opted to enter UCLA at the same time, and thus were in the same graduating class.

In Schwikert’s first year of competition for the UCLA Bruins gymnastics team, she won the NCAA National all-around title. She was the only gymnast in 2005 to earn first-team All-American honors on all four events. Schwikert was sidelined for most of the 2005–2006 season due to a shoulder injury requiring surgery, but remained a student at UCLA and a member of the team. Schwikert returned to the UCLA floor and vault lineup for the Pac-10 Championships in late March, and continued to compete on a limited basis for the rest of the season. Recovered from her injury, Schwikert ended the 2006-2007 season as one of the top collegiate gymnasts in the nation. She won the PAC-10 all-around title for the second time in her career, picking up additional gold medals on the floor exercise, balance beam and vault, and was named the PAC-10 and West Region Gymnast of the Year. She also won the all-around title at the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships. At the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics championship in April, Schwikert was the only gymnast from UCLA to win an individual medal, earning a silver on the uneven bars and was a nominee for the Honda Award. Schwikert completed her senior year as one of the strongest gymnasts on the Bruins team. At the 2008 NCAA National Championships, she won her second all-around title and placed first on uneven bars, second on floor, and eighth on vault.

Post Competition: Since 2005, Schwikert has been employed as a gymnastics commentator by the WCSN Network. She has covered the World Gymnastics Championships for three consecutive years, working alongside Nadia Comaneci (2005) and Bart Conner. Schwikert has also commentated on UCLA gymnastics broadcasts, and worked with NBC at the Beijing Olympics. Schwikert has most recently worked on the television series Make It or Break It as both a stunt double and actress.

Family: Father-Shannon Warrren, Mother-Joy Schwikert.

Sources: Date collected and formatted from the public domain by Jerry Wright. Photos also collected from the public domain by Jerry Wright, web manager: 2008-2010 Bios & Photos. Minor editing by Larry Banner, 1894-2004 Bio. Manager, Ph.D. & Ed. E.