|Courtney Kupets attends the 30th Annual Salute To Women In Sports Awards at The Waldorf Astoria on Oct. 13, 2009 in New York City.
PITTSBURGH -- Courtney Kupets is trading in the leotards and chalky gymnasiums of her youth for a swimming suit and the posh Wynn hotel in Las Vegas. The two-time Olympic medalist who retired from gymnastics in 2009 will begin rehearsals Monday for Le Reve, a water show featuring acrobatics, synchronized swimming and dancing.
“I figure while I’m still there I can still do it, and if I wait any longer I probably won’t be able to,” said Kupets, 28, who on Friday was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in one of the ancillary events surrounding the P&G Gymnastics Championships, which are being held through Sunday at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
Kupets, who earned a team silver medal and a bronze medal on the uneven bars in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games before winning three NCAA all-around titles at Georgia, described her role in Le Reve as “swinging off a trapeze and doing bar dismounts into water.” Her husband, Chris Carter, a former acrobatic gymnast for the British national team, is already part of the show, as is Kupets’ sister, Ashley.
“People who perform, they just love what they do,” said Kupets, the 2002 uneven bars world champion. “I hear it all the time; they just are so excited about what they do and they love having that job. And you know what, I want to experience that too! It’s just another world of gymnastics to me.”
CELEBRATION OF STARS: In addition to the hall of fame induction, USA Gymnastics is recognizing the 1984 and 2004 U.S. Olympic gymnastics teams for their 30th and 10th anniversaries during the weekend.
All 12 gymnasts from the 2004 Games were introduced to the 7,529 fans at Thursday night’s women’s competition. The 1984 squads, minus Peter Vidmar, whose daughter is getting married this weekend, will be introduced Saturday night during the final round of the women’s competition.
The 1984 and 2004 Games were notable for the success of both the U.S. men’s and women’s teams.
In 1984 in Los Angeles, the “Miracle on the Mat” U.S. men’s team shocked the powerful China team en route to its first — and still only — U.S. Olympic men’s team gold medal. The U.S. men also won seven individual medals, including two golds. The women’s competition is most remembered for the young Mary Lou Retton, who became the first U.S. woman to win the Olympic all-around. The women’s team won a silver medal, and U.S. individuals added six more medals, one of them gold.
Twenty years later in Athens, both U.S. teams again had breakout performances. Both teams earned silver medals, while Carly Patterson and Paul Hamm each won all-around titles. Patterson’s was the first for a U.S. woman since Retton and Hamm’s win was the first by any U.S. man. The men’s team medal was the first since 1984, while the women’s medal got Team USA back on the podium after a disappointing fourth-place finish in 2000. (A decade later, in 2010, the IOC awarded the bronze medal after the original bronze medalist, China, was disqualified for entering an age-ineligible gymnast).
“(2004) was definitely that stepping stone, I think, for the girls to follow,” Kupets said.
American women won the all-around gold medals in the 2008 (Nastia Liukin) and 2012 Games (Gabrielle Douglas), and after finishing second in 2008 the U.S. women claimed team gold again in London.
HALL OF FAME: That 2008 Olympic women’s all-around champion, Nastia Liukin, was one of five gymnasts who joined Kupets in being inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame Friday. The others were three-time Olympian and 2004 silver medalist Blaine Wilson, three-time U.S. rhythmic all-around champion Lisa Wang, University of Illinois men’s gymnastics coach Yoshi Hayasaki, and gymnastics judge and administrator Jola Jones, who received the Lifetime Achievement honor.
In addition to winning all-around gold, Liukin also earned silver medals in the team competition, uneven bars and balance beam, as well as the bronze medal on floor exercise.
“Gymnastics for me is my first love and my first passion, and I’ll forever be so thankful for everything it has given me,” said Liukin, who is doing double-duty this weekend as a broadcaster for NBC.
The hall of famers were inducted at a lunchtime ceremony Friday.
“It’s such an honor to be counted among some of the most distinguished gymnasts, coaches and judges in U.S. gymnastics history,“ Wang said.
Chrös McDougall has been a reporter and editor for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.