By Gina Pongetti

There is a definite void in the alumni. The “usual suspects” and their personalities, stories, tenure and camaraderie are absent, yet the mark that they left on the sport and the path paved for the newer, younger generation is evident. Some are retired (most due to age and health) and some are leaving the door open for a comeback…after a bit of a break to “do” life.  Whether college or coaching, writing books or speaking, all are present with just a bit over a year since most were on the competition floor. Fans are happy that the athletes get to enjoy replacing a grueling training schedule with other activities—but their leadership and star power are missed. Let’s take a look at where these champions are now…

Jake Dalton

  • Retired in August
  • Moved back to Nevada to work at his parents’ gymnastics gyms in Reno and Sparks, where he was raised
  • Was in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games
  • Competed NCAA Gymnastics at Oklahoma under the coaching eyes of Mark Williams
  • Has been on the National Elite scene since 2007, competing internationally 19 times since 2009.
  • Has a clothing line called Mesomorph
  • Beyond the sport of gymnastics, Jake has many interests in the fitness arena, strength, nutrition and more

 

Laurie Hernandez

  • Was a part of the 2016 Olympic Gold medal team
  • Has taken the year off for appearances, talk shows, awards shows, speaking engagements, writing a book, winning Dancing with the Stars, and just some R&R
  • She will weigh her options, once returning to training, to focus on beam and floor (her strong events) and to see whether she can handle the rigors of training all four events
  • Has a bit of a theater and acting itch, has auditioned for Disney and more

 

Danell Leyva

  • Retired
  • Competed in the 2012 (all-around bronze) and 2016 Olympics (p-bar and high bar silver)
  • Competed for 10 years on Senior National Team
  • Currently pursuing an acting career in California—a departure from his most recent home in Miami. He and his business partner started a production company and called it Parallel Entertainment

 

Simone Biles

  • 2016 Olympian with 5 medals
  • World All-Around Champion 2013-2015
  • The most decorated American gymnast with a combined total of 19 World and Olympic medals
  • Was only on the international scene for a mere four years, rising quickly in her dominance
  • Spoke during the tour and in various interviews about coming back for a push to Tokyo 2020 after a full year off to relax and reset, aiming toward summer of 2018.

 

Chris Brooks

  • Retired this week
  • Stuck around through to the post-Olympic tour and was the 2017 High Bar Champion at Winter Cup
  • Was on the J.O. National Team in 2003-2004, and stayed in the mix for the next 14 years; quite a tenure
  • He is going to pursue a job in college coaching.

 

Aly Raisman

  • 2012 and 2016 Olympian, and 2011 and 2015 World Team Gold Medalist
  • Began international competition in 2009, had an eight-year career
  • Had a stint on Dancing with the Stars
  • Has a leotard line with GK
  • Wrote a book called “Fierce”
  • Has said that her intention is to possibly try for 2020 and has not officially announced her retirement!
  • Has multiple sponsorship and product deals throughout the years

 

Gabby Douglas

  • Was on the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams
  • Entered the junior national scene in 2009 at U.S. Championships
  • Pursued a career in acting
  • Wrote a book entitle “Grace, Gold and Glory”
  • Has her own namesake Barbie doll!
  • Hasn’t yet decided if she’ll make a comeback

 

Paul Ruggeri III

  • 28 national appearances (over 11 years) and 12 international (over 7 years);
  • was a contender for the 2016 Olympic Men’s team, trained after Olympic Trials, and then later announced retirement
  • Was a molecular biology major at University of Illinois, where he won the Nissen award in 2012.
  • Is coaching at U.S. Gymnastics Development Center, a gym owned and operated by former gymnast Daniel Ribeiro, one of Ruggeri’s teammates at U of I
  • Is an avid traveler as well

 

Jon Horton

  • Retired in 2017, attempting to come back after not being able to compete at Olympic Trials in 2016 (due to a shoulder injury suffered while training pommel horse)
  • Was a 2008 (team bronze, high bar silver) and 2012 Olympian (team: 5th)
  • Has been on American Ninja Warrior for three seasons, and is known for being the shortest man to conquer the ‘warped wall’ obstacle
  • Is at Championships doing live feed for the juniors

 

Madison Kocian

  • 2016 Olympian (team gold and bars silver) as well as 2015 World Champion (team and bars) and 2014 (team gold)
  • Was on the junior national team in 2009 at the age of 12, and spent eight years on the international circuit
  • Is now an athlete at UCLA; is still considering a return to elite

 

MyKayla Skinner

  • S. Olympic Alternate for 2016 Olympics
  • Was on the national scene since Championships in 2009
  • NCAA Championships silver, representing University of Utah, after taking a year between high school and leaving for college

 

John Orozco

  • An ACL tear made him give up his position as a 2016 Olympian
  • Pursuing a career in acting in California
  • Was in the sport for 16 years

 

While it’s always wonderful to see the new talent emerge from the junior ranks, as fans, we still miss the memorable performances given by the veterans and stars of past Olympics. But hopefully we’ll be seeing at least a few of these gymnasts returning to the elite stage in the years leading up to Tokyo—Simone Biles, for instance, reportedly returned to the gym this month!

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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