Olympian Mitch Gaylord to Newsmax: Games Welcome Escape in Tough Times

Friday, 27 Jul 2012 07:18 AM

By Patrick Hobin and Kathleen Walter

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The Olympic games may have become more commercialized since gymnast Mitch Gaylord captured the gold for America in 1984 but he told Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview that the formula for success and the range of emotions remain the same: simultaneous nervousness and excitement at the opening ceremonies which morphs into laser focus during performance.

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These days, Gaylord sits back and takes in the games and cheers on those who have trained to do what he once did with great success. He told Newsmax.TV he can identify with the dizzying range of emotions the athletes go through during opening ceremonies and throughout the games.

“There’s a gigantic range of emotions going on right now, from the pressure that people feel to the nervousness to the actual excitement of getting it going because that’s the toughest part, is the anticipation of your event,” Gaylord said.

The opening ceremonies are the most fun because as a kid he thought about participating in them one day. “That really signifies and feels like, hey, the dream’s a reality right now. And then after that, the reality sets in and you realize what you’re there to do, which is compete to the best of your ability and do the best possible job that you can,” he said. “So it’s a huge range of emotions, I’ll tell you that right now. But the biggest one is, ‘Let’s get this going right now!’ Because you don’t want to wait any longer.”

The California native Gaylord led the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team to its gold medal victory in 1984 and went on to capture a silver medal for vaulting and two bronze medals for rings and parallel bars. Now Gaylord is motivational speaker and fitness expert and the creator of Gold Medal Fitness and the “Melt if OFF with Mitch” workout program.

Gaylord said he started out late, at age 12, for gymnastics. Coaches noticed a natural ability one day at a trampoline class encouraged him try gymnastics.

“You hit one level of the sport and then you want to get to the next level,” he said. “Until, eventually, the Olympics becomes part of that dream, part of that goal set and the mindset of wanting to get there. And then you realize there’s so much incredible hard work and determination and effort that you need to put in along the way.”

He said he and other Olympians get asked is if they feel they missed out on anything because of the long hours spent training. Gaylord said that the athletes are so motivated by the Olympic dream that nothing else matters. “You really want to make that dream a reality,” Gaylord said. “And you wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”

The ability to be able to focus is the biggest lesson he learned from the Olympics, Gaylord said. “A lot of times people let distractions, you know, just life distractions take you in many, many different areas, and the focus that you learn as an athlete and the mindset that you have to have in order to get there is incredibly focused,” he said.

“It’s very one-dimensional,” Gaylord continued. “You’re kind of like a one-track mind there. Even though you know things are happening around you and you know there’s distractions and things to take care of, you always come back to the main focus of achieving your goal. That’s the big lesson that we can take into life no matter what it is that we’re pursuing, is to not let anything derail us and really stay focused on that path.”

Gaylord said he’s proud to be the first American gymnast in history to score a perfect 10 in the Olympics, and to have two skills named for him--the Gaylord Flip and the Gaylord Two—which are considered the most difficult and spectacular feats in gymnastics.

“I look back to that with great pride that I was able to be an innovator in the sport and have a couple of tricks named after me,” he said. “…Hopefully, that inspires other athletes to tap into their creative resources and come up with new and exciting skills. …But scoring the first perfect 10 was amazing, not just for me as an individual, but what it did for us as a team. It really created that momentum and belief that we were able to be competing with the best in the world.”

“That gave us the momentum, it gave us that excitement and the crowd was behind us and, you know, each of us went on to win individual medals after we won the team gold,” he said. “But all of us will tell you the same thing: standing on the victory stand with our teammates side-by-side, that was the defining moment of the games for all of us.”

Gaylord said the games are more commercialized are more commercialized these days, which presents a conundrum of sorts. “It’s kind of like a love-hate thing,” he said. “You need the sponsorship, you need the support from these great corporations around the world that put money into it and then the authentic side of me is, ‘Hey, it’s just about the sports and let’s see more of the sports that don’t get the main airtime coverage.’ …So you’ve got to find your balance but they do a great a job and the Olympics are still here and they’re still going strong and nothing could be better than that.”

The Olympics can help lift the spirits of Americans during tough economic or other circumstances, Gaylord said, recalling the 1984 games. “When I competed, the sense of pride that Americans felt for hosting those games and bringing the world together under the name ‘sports’ is a very patriotic and unifying thing. And even though the games are in London this year, Americans still stand behind their athletes and we are one. It’s a very patriotic feeling.”

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