Doni Thompson is a former U.S. National Team member. She was coached during her most successful elite days by the Forsters at Colorado Aerials; Doni became a member of the bronze medal-winning 1995 U.S. World Championships team. She took a break from gymnastics to compete in diving before returning to her first sport in 1998. She eventually began competing in NCAA gymnastics for UCLA, winning a team title in 2001 and placing second on uneven bars at the 2002 NCAA Championships. We caught up with Doni to see what she’s up to now!

Inside: What have you been up to lately?
Doni: The last five years have been exciting with a move to Iowa and the opening of my gym, Eyas Gymnastics. Eyas is a predominately boys’ gymnastics program that runs out of the University of Iowa. My husband, JD Reive, is the Head Men’s Gymnastics coach at the University and our mission has always been to provide opportunities and education to help propagate the men’s side of the sport in the surrounding communities associated with a varsity program. The transition into boys’ gymnastics was accidental, as I fell into it in California by helping my husband run his club program while he was the assistant at Stanford. I fell in love with it and have never looked back. I am excited to say that I had three boys that qualified to the Future Stars National Championships in Colorado Springs. It was a great opportunity for my program and a wonderful chance to hang out in my old stomping grounds.

Inside: Which do you prefer—coaching or competing?
Doni: I loved to compete but coaching has offered many unique challenges and new perspectives that I am grateful for. The similarities between coaching and competing are many. While a competitor I would become nervous and jittery before a competition. I still get that way before a meet but now it is a bit harder because it is not me on the apparatus. I have to let go and trust my athletes. This is difficult at times when you don’t have control over the outcome. It is even harder when my son Dante, Level 5, competes as I am now coach and mom at the same time.

Inside: What are some of your favorite gymnastics memories?
Doni: I have a few favorite gymnastics moments ranging from USA to NCAA competition but my first thought went to the 1994 Olympic Festival. This was the first time I really understood my potential in the sport and it was such a fun experience overall.

Inside: What was your favorite skill to compete?
Doni: I loved to compete bars. If I didn’t think my arms were going to detach from my body, I would still be swinging today! I loved competing release moves and trying new combinations and testing my mind to think quickly and come [up] with different variations of a set of skills. Nothing beats bars.

Inside: How do you feel gymnastics has changed since your competition days?
Doni: The sport has evolved so much since I was competing. The level of difficulty is staggering and when I watch I just sit there in awe of what these athletes are competing.

Inside: Who’s your pick to win the Rio all-around?
Doni: Simone Biles and Kohei Uchimura.

Inside: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Doni: Gymnastics has giving me everything I have in my life. From my husband and family to a career that I love. I am forever grateful for the time I had out on the floor and all the opportunities that I was presented with.

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Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com