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February 21, 2005
Inside Gymnastics Interviews Carly
It has been a non-stop whirlwind of touring, autograph sessions and appearances for Carly Patterson (pictured at left) since she was crowned the Olympic Champion last August in Athens. Patterson has been feted on talk shows, featured in her own television special on NBC, adorned a Wheaties box, walked the red carpet at Hollywood premieres and award shows, performed in 40-plus cities on the T.J. Maxx Tour of Gymnastics Champions and was a special guest at a host of high-powered events (the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York, Brian Boitano’s Christmas special, riding on a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, just to name a few).

“Through [December] it was, like, every day I had something to do,” Patterson told Inside Gymnastics, “and I keep signing up for more. I’ll probably go on vacation in the summer or something. Not so soon, unfortunately.”

Patterson’s favorite perk so far? “Definitely getting a Ford Mustang,” she said with a smile. “I got to choose everything. I got a silver one with a GT spoiler.”

But by the end of last year’s tour, Patterson was also feeling the downside of being the Olympic champ. “It’s pretty hard,” she said last November. “It really takes a toll on you. The first part was easy and fun. Then the middle part gets harder and wears you out. Then the last part is fun again, but it’s also the hardest on your body. It gets really difficult after three months, every night.”

For Patterson, who turned 17 earlier this month, being the Olympic champ has become a full-time job that leaves room for little else, even gymnastics. This week she is in Houston, Texas, attending her first National Team training camp since her Olympic victory. But next week training is back on hold, as she will fly to New York for another round of events and promotional appearances.

“She’s in the gym every day that she’s home,” coach Evgeny Marchenko said. “But it’s hard because she’ll train a week, [then] be gone a week. But even then, she’s so young and strong that when she’s in the gym for a couple of days of training you can see her get better and better.”

PattersonPatterson’s (pictured at left signing autographs) training has been limited since the Games due not only to her jam-packed schedule but also school obligations—after taking a semester off following the Games, her studies currently allow Patterson time for only one workout per day—and a recent diagnosis of a congenital problem with the vertebrae in her lower back that made training painful. “The doctor said he was amazed she went all those years without problems,” Marchenko said. “It is still bothering her, but it’s nothing major. She just [needs to] take it a little easy.”

With everything going on since the Games, Patterson says she has yet to make a decision about future competitions. “I haven’t really thought about it yet,” she says. “I just want to kind of see what’s going on. I want to see what it feels like to be back in the gym every day, all of that kind of stuff.”

“I’ll definitely support any of her choices,” Patterson’s coach said sincerely. “Of course, there’s no way I’ll push her. It’s very hard for her to look ahead for months and months. She wants to take it one day at time. I told her to keep herself in shape and life will show. She’s never said, ‘No I don’t want to do it anymore,’ but it’s definitely hard for her to make long-term plans. She has been incredibly busy, as busy as you can be. [But] she’s still in good physical shape. She looks pretty much the same as she did at the Olympics, and that’s great.

Patterson“Her life has changed tremendously since winning the Olympics,” Marchenko explained. “She’s been blessed with a lot of different opportunities. She’s been traveling the country, traveling the world, and that journey continues. I’m very pleased to see that she’s held up so well. She’s a down-to-earth person. She always has been. But, at the same time, I see her becoming a role model for a lot of young people. Bringing smiles to a lot of people's faces. She’s an awesome young woman and I’m proud of her.”

One thing Marchenko is sure of is that Patterson (pictured at right) won’t return unless she’s in top form. “No way is she going to go into a competition [unless] she’s in excellent physical condition and ready to defend her title,” her coach insisted. “There is no way I’d put her in competition otherwise and she, herself, knows that.”

For now, six months after Patterson’s historic win, there is still time for coach and athlete to bask in the glory.

“She’s achieved her ultimate dream,” Marchenko said proudly. “It was an amazing journey. It was hard. I lost a lot of hair the last four years (laughs)…but there is a lot of joy. Everything I’ve been through with Carly, that [my fellow coach] Natasha (Boyarskaya) and I have been through, through all the ups and downs, we never lost our trust in Carly and what we were doing. We believed in our system and we were proved right. I feel such pleasure, the satisfaction to look back and feel like you succeeded as a coach, [helped] your athlete succeed. Those years will be in my heart the rest of my life.”

And for Patterson, there is still joy in her sport. “I love to perform for people,” she said simply. “That’s the most exciting. That’s what [I’d miss].”

Source: http://www.insidegymnastics.com/news/article.asp?article=022105


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