Bart Conner and Kathy Johnson Clarke
DescriptionBart Conner (62) and colleague Kathy Johnson Clarke (61) talk about their overlapping Olympic gymnastics careers and their current work together as broadcast partners.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Bart Conner
- Kathy Johnson Clarke
Recording LocationVirtual Recording
Partnership TypeFee for Service
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00:00 2 years of age today is November 27th and 2020. I'm calling in today from Norman Oklahoma where I live for the last 40-plus years and I am thrilled to be talking to one of my dearest friends. One of my Olympic colleagues fellow Olympic medalist and one of my co-workers Kathy Johnson Clarke. Hi Kathy, and he said my name is Kathy Johnson Clarke and I am 61 years old. I live in Longwood Florida, which is where I am speaking from right now and my sons said he's off it getting his graduate degree right now and you and I have been friends.
00:45 Wow for many many years we met in 1977.
00:54 At the American Cup my first big International Meat and you're the very young still you are a veteran least in my mind Kurt Thomas. Where were the man in the American Cup for the US team and Donald Trimble and I we're representing the women side at the American cop, but my question is cuz actually back before we met so you and I are our careers kind of have paralleled each other and we were both I think we were the oldest in 1984 competing at the Olympics for the US team, but you have the experience.
01:38 A competing is the youngest two at the 76 Olympic Games and experience. I've never had ever. I was never young. I need to know what that feels like. It would have felt. Like I just missed making that team. Will I be able to chat with you Cathy in is your right? We've been friends and dearest friends for over 40 years. So it's a pleasure to be with you today at soda reminisce a little bit about our careers and you're right. Our careers have a similar trajectory interesting ly enough. We both started rather late in the sport compared to others that we ended up competing with I was ten years of age when most kids, you know, who would make it to the elite level. We're starting at a much younger age. And but I did make the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. I had just turned 18. I was by far the youngest guy in that team and I
02:38 Still to this day, one of the youngest Olympic male gymnasts in US history and I have to say though Kathy. You said you feel like you missed that experience for me. It was traumatic. I performed poorly. I was completely over my head and overwhelmed and I remember looking around. The arena is the Montreal Forum where they had the 76 Olympics and I saw Mitsuwa tsukahara and Nikolai andriana off and all of my heroes and I just melted I was so overwhelmed that I was in a competition with all the people that I've been reading about in magazines for years. So unfortunately, I didn't Focus terribly well and I didn't compete terribly well, so I'm not so sure you missed a lot Kathy because it was fairly traumatic and I know that later in our careers when we finally got to step onto the Olympic stage when we were ready for it. It was a much different result. Absolutely, but you just described how I felt.
03:38 At the 76 Olympic trials, so I had started gymnastics really late very late 12 years of age. So we didn't know there was no gymnastics gym in my little Hometown. There was. He's Dance Academy, but did you know gymnastics and acrobatics gymnastics? They did dance and acrobatics and I remember taking you had to take both. I did not want to take dance at all. I wanted acrobatics. I wanted to do all that flipping and stuff that I had seen on television. I had seen at the Olympics, so I wanted to do that. So I started right there, but
04:20 I did not begin gymnastics until Junior High School 12 years of age. There was a volunteer group of volunteer coaches, and we had a team at at the junior high school where we had equipment that we had to take on and off the floor had no form at the equipment look like it came over on the Mayflower. It's going on. I love did I adored it and but I had a really really late start. Somebody noticed me at a little league ball field where I was there watching my brothers play baseball and I was doing backflips off the top Leisure and Spencer sporting goods store.
05:10 The guy who ran it happened to be there and he found my parents and said I I can't help but notice, you know, I got your daughter that's doing this backflips in their get all that. So I will tell her to stop because I just wanted to say I know a coach in Atlanta Georgia who coaches like Olympic level gymnast and he has a summer camp and I think she would really benefit, you know from from that opportunity. So I went off to a summer camp the next summer and sure enough. I he spotted me and I was supposed to only be there for one week and he talked my parents into staying a second week which they could not afford but they did anyways, then he wanted a third and a fourth week and a family stepped up. Let me live with them and I stayed all summer and just learned like Rapid Fire Within A year-and-a-half.
06:03 I ended up moving away from home to train in Atlanta live with this young couple and it was about you know, a year-and-a-half before 76 Olympic trials and I was just playing catch-up fast as I fast as I could I went through, you know back then it was called Advanced the left which is like level 10. I quickly went through that only did three meats at level at that level and went right into a link. So by the time I got to Olympic Stiles is interesting back then all the big names, you know, they they got kind of passed through some of the Elite qualifying it so I didn't see a lot of them until
06:45 Showing at the Olympic trials and like you I was like until we're in this free-for-all warm up. Everybody's trying to get to warm up time and I just kept letting everybody go in front of me. Go ahead what you go ahead and make my parents later said we're wondering if you're ever going to get up on the equipment to warm up. And anyways, I was first day of competition. I was almost dead last compulsories that evening we did optionals I end and that was easy for me. That was my comfort zone and all of a sudden I shot up in the rankings cuz I was you know, I had a good optional competition. So I went up to like
07:28 14th 12th Place and then we had to do compulsory the next day and I drop right back down to almost dead last and then ended up I think it's time for love it. They took 10 to the Olympic Training. So I just missed it, but I know that overwhelming.
07:44 Horrible feeling of being in awe and and just not quite prepared to compete at that level parallels with our careers and I do think lots of elite athletes can look back at and point to one individual who might have reached out at a welcoming hand or open the door for us like the Sporting Goods retailer that notice you doing backflips off the bleachers my fourth grade PE teacher, you know, we had you know, 6 weeks of wrestling and 6 weeks of volleyball in 6 weeks of gymnastics and he noticed I was pretty good at walking around on my hands and he said can I talk to your parents maybe on the weekend? I could bring you and your older brother Bruce over to the high school to see what your nastics is really all about because I think you have potential to be a good gymnast. So I said sure and so a Saturday morning and I went over there to the high school and watch all these high school kids work it out and I will never forget that moment to this day. I remember what the gym.
08:44 Looks like I remember what it smelled like, I remember color the mat or I can tell you where every piece of apparatus was in that upstairs balcony. They saw the parallel bars at the end. And then one of the guys that hit him up on their see if he can do anything and I swing up to a handstand on the end of the parallel bars. And one of the high school kid goes man. You're really good. Well, then I was off and running and you know, once you give a little encouragement to a kid, it's intoxicating and I wanted more so I started going once a week and then pretty soon couple of days a week and and there was on my way but you know that turned out to be a life-defining moment for me, but it was all because of the Goodwill of a Fourth Grade PE teacher who extended a hand and said hey. You know, you might have some potential or would you like to learn more about it? So I think a lot of you know, great Champions look back to that sort of seminal moment it many times. It's just one good person of Good Will who send you down that path
09:42 When I look back on my career it is.
09:49 That that early time in our sport when I know you did the same. I fell deeply in love with gymnastics and I credit my first coaches those volunteer coaches at Hoover Junior High School jacked up there and Andy Butler and mrs. Singer who was the PE teacher at Hoover Jr. High for creating such a magical space for all of us to go and they work so hard they couldn't go to the Olympic level say it's exciting. But what they did was they did everything in their power to give me opportunities to to learn be kind of learn themselves. I would see something on television and I can explain the trick. I didn't even know what it's called it going. I want to do this and I had a CO2 no matter what I did with my body. He could catch me if I was going to fly off the
10:49 And this one particular moment this this coach was coming into town and he was going to give a clinic and he was when everybody leaves was this great gymnastics coach with a clinic was being done at our rival Junior High School. The only other team that had a gymnastics team and so none of us were invited. We weren't allowed to take part in this clinic and my coaches were pushing and pushing cuz they wanted me to have the opportunity and he wanted me to be seen so unbeknownst to me.
11:33 My coach just decided we were going.
11:35 We're going to crash this. I didn't know we were passing it. I had no idea we were crashing it but we did our little workout and then hopped in his little bug and drove up to this junior high school and they were just finishing that like the clinic was still going on.
11:53 And I walk in and you could just see all eyes just turn to the door and they see my coach walking into me like what she doing here and I'm sitting there he goes warm and then I could tell immediately. I'm not supposed to be here. Okay. I I just sent this and they're all looking at me not with welcoming eyes and as they were finishing up and they were over on an even bars. He says go over there just go take a turn essentially pushed me out there and I go walking over there all.
12:26 4 feet tall on my cell. I like I was tiny tiny tiny in middle school and he saw me and he said because you haven't had to turn I just nine one. Nothing. I got up there and I threw every trick but I could do it or not and it's more than anybody else there was doing so anyways, I leave and go home.
12:58 And I find this out later the phone rang in the middle of the night. It was like 12 or 1 in the Morning phone rings. It was this coach. He called my parents that night and said mister Miss Johnson and they're like, it's trying to wake up, you know, and he said I I I just want to tell you I don't I don't know if you know this but your daughter has the ability to be at least a national class gymnast. If not, if not more and I my wife and I would like to offer the opportunity for her to come live with us and train and my parents are like God that's wonderful to hear. Thank you very much good by like you don't leave home. I was fourteen at the time. And as I said, they didn't share that with me cuz I would have my bags packed wherever.
13:54 Babe, my Mom finally shared it with me when the opportunity arose where it was one of those situations where they couldn't say. No, I literally had no Jim like if I was going to even try this I had to you know, I had to trust somebody and let their daughter at 15 and a half away from home live with a young couple Bonnie and Tom come to this day. I I put them in that
14:22 Precious basket of people who did something for me. That's so changed my life. And and and it's those people.
14:35 That helped me get through the hard years.
14:38 And those last few years of my career that were hard. They were really really hard.
14:46 Because of this love that they instilled in me the care that they took that beat.
14:51 Effort and energy that they put into me kind of helped me develop.
15:00 I did not it's not like I wanted to repay them. I wanted to live up to that. I wanted to be worthy of all that they gave me.
15:11 You Kathy? I feel the same less Lang was my fourth grade PE teacher and then John burkel was the High School PE teacher that took me under his wing and
15:22 Help me get all the way to the Olympics in 76 and then I moved to Oklahoma to be coached by palzer who did the same for me and I'm sure that's a common theme with all these Elite athletes who said so it's not hard to feel enormous gratitude for those people who saw some potential in you that maybe you didn't even see in yourself and helped ignite that passion that that still drives us to this day, you know, it's interesting from my perspective because people often see us walking around and being a bright color USA uniforms and parading around smiling and celebrating and competing and getting big scores and high-fiving and winning medals. It makes it sound like it's always been that way and I think if someone turns into the Olympics every 4 years like all look at those kids that look like must be so good for them. You know, it's like look at their on top of the world and I think many times is dory's of the struggles or not.
16:22 Currently portrayed and was there ever a time in your career when you said I think I'm done. I I need out of this because the pressure that you put on yourself and even others from the outside. Just what made you question whether that's what you should be doing. There were many times that I that I felt that you know, a lot of different things happen. And I'm we share many of these things whether it was an injury or a or a major failure or disappointment on that we suffered or experience.
17:01 End and now looking back. I think we can honestly say it. I certainly can some of the mistakes that were made.
17:10 That we couldn't undo like and they end even though I didn't make them because they were made they affected me and and the course of my gymnastics career.
17:25 And what what I chose to do and it and it goes back to that just but that little
17:34 That magical little girl dream was so strong in the beginning cuz cuz I like you.
17:43 I thought I could be the best in the world. I mean that I really did when I was Tiny and little and just starting out. I just felt like I could do you know and I felt I felt the talent. I felt that I could do something really really special with it. But it's just how do you do that? How do you how do you actually put all of those that confidence that belief that talent and everything and I didn't know what the time she kind of started a little late to get all of this done but
18:23 In those moments. It's like if he came a double-edged sword for me.
18:31 I was so persistent and so resilient I wanted to to get to wherever that finish line is for me wherever that is that it's the best that I can possibly be. I was driven by that but then things happened and what creeped in was this fear to fear of quitting quitting before I got there and then fear of am I even going to know that that's it that that's where I like this is the best it's times.
19:03 To to be satisfied to be content to be able to say I did everything I possibly could if not even more to be able to walk away. I got to do that. It was a long way in a long time getting there and there were moments as you said that I think about them now too cuz I remember one specifically and I was in California training its cats and it was an intense time between the world championships in 83, which was my best World Championships, but it but I also
19:44 I knew what it took for me to get there. I knew how hard it was for me to go from.
19:52 Almost quitting having an injury that I thought was going to retire me and somehow being able to get past that and then made it May Day.
20:06 A move that so terrified me after making it which was leaving, Atlanta, Georgia.
20:16 I was training with Tom and Bunny cook for the second time around. Okay. I started with them. I moved away to Louisiana. I came back to them and I was so happy Bart.
20:29 In Atlanta
20:30 With surrounded with people who love me for me who I was not for what I could do not for any success that I could have the chest for me and
20:43 Tom and Bunny with a perfect coaches for me, especially at that time so giving so so just supportive and
20:56 And then it got to a point where after this one injury. It was even hard on them to try to push me cuz they weren't sure that it was wise to push me at the time and I needed to be pushed. I wanted to be pushed and and so almost done like a spur-of-the-moment decision.
21:18 Dawn Peters who coached out its cats and he was the national coach at the time. And so I know I knew him well enough because he coached our national team sit at the world championship. And I was also coaching at the time he knew I was coaching. I was a very good coach that coached Darth our team and in Atlanta and I out of blue just pick up the phone and called him.
21:44 To ask if there was any way that I could come out there and train.
21:50 And and I said it and I can coach so it's like you got a twofer can definitely work out the other. I don't know and and he he said let me get back to you.
22:06 Any I got to talk to you know, the parents of the scouts organization all that we got to see if it even logistically it can work out cuz it's an unusual situation. I'm almost I was 23 at the time almost twenty-four. So anyways, he gets back to me and I remember him saying he says, you know as the national team coach
22:28 I have written you off at least.
22:31 At least a couple times thinking she's done and each time you prove me wrong and you came back and
22:43 And if there's anyone who deserves a shot at this, it's you and I would like to help you do it and so all of a sudden it became really real I was going to to make the move from a place. I loved coaching kids. I loved surrounded by people that I loved and they loved me but I was sliding into retirement and
23:13 And talking to my coaches at the time in database. So supported it. They wanted it wasn't me leaving them. It was it was them realizing they wanted what was absolutely best for me.
23:27 And I'll never forget the day that I had to pack up all my stuff and I had to go to the car at the auto shows. Do remember those Auto shows for a choreographed those on the side. This is what help pay for things. Okay, cuz we couldn't be paid remember that back then. So why did I choreographed these car shows and for payment because they couldn't pay me money. I got the use of a car.
23:53 So when I got out to California, I would actually have a car and not have to drive my 67 Volkswagen and anyways, so I had to go do this car show for so I had two weeks, but I had to sit on this decision of leaving a comfortable place. I'm having my girls down my team girls down and try to explain to them why I was leaving why why I couldn't stay there to try and why couldn't there be there and have my dreams come true and I remember telling them I said you guys are so young.
24:37 I said but someday I hope you'll understand this.
24:43 I've had a dream.
24:45 Since I was your age
24:49 And I got one last chance one last chance to see if I could do it and I don't even know if I can but if I don't try there will be a hole. So big inside of me that you wouldn't want me to be your coach there be so. Oh, yes, we were I said, no you really wouldn't I said I have to go out there and take this chance. Even if it doesn't work out even if I can't do it. I need to go out and do this one last thing.
25:18 And what the youngest little kid came up to me afterwards just crying tears streaming down her face. She looks so I don't have to be older to understand. I understand completely sweet. So then I had to pack up all my stuff and Tom.
25:34 And I'm extra emotional now because Tom passed away.
25:38 It's been 5 years, but
25:43 This man was so special to me in such a wonderful Mentor coach everything everything to me. He picked me up with all my bags packed and emptied out the van so that I could I have trunks. I was moving from you know, Cross Country Side these two giant Trunks and he moved all the seats out in the band put those trunks and I'm sitting all the way in the back of the van. He's up there driving and all this space in between us.
26:14 And if we're driving I'm having my second thoughts and I can be on my own. Yeah, my eyes filled with tears. I'm like
26:23 I want to send to turn around just turn around. I can't do this. I can't do this and I did not stop there and all of a sudden I see his shoulders shaking.
26:33 As he's driving.
26:36 I'm like, oh my God, he's crying.
26:39 I can't do this. I can't do this to him. I can't do it. Damn. I can't do it to me and then wasted comes out to say we pull up at the airport and he opens the sliding door and we both just have tears in her eyes, and I hopped out
26:52 Thinking I'm going to say let's just go back. Let's just go back we can do this. We can do it here and he pulled me into a hug and he says you're making the right decision. You know, you can always come if something doesn't go right you can always come back but you are making the right decision and I went I know when you so needed it and that turned out to be obviously a key moment in your career which you know ended on such a sweet and somehow sometimes Melancholy note in Los Angeles because having missed out on the 76 Olympics and then along with me and our fellow Olympic teammates 1980, we were on that team poised to go but that was the boycott year. So for both you and I are careers came to a close at the same time as well.
27:52 In Los Angeles and Pauley Pavilion and when I look back in 1976, I was that young kid overwhelmed 1980. I was already a world champion in 79 and you had won medals at the World Championships. So, you know things look good. And then that was swept out from under our feet. So the end 1984 Olympic come around and you and I are both barely hanging on lyrics by far now the oldest members of the team and the lot of people had written us off. I used to play that song in my car on Elton John had a song out back in the Middle Ages called I'm still standing and that was my inspiration because I wanted people to know that I'm still standing. I'm here at 7 months before those Olympics. I tore my bicep competing in Japan was on the Rings and tore my bicep and so I had to have surgery and decor.
28:52 A whole nother layer of intensity at to try to see if I can make it back and be a part of that team. So it's interesting Cathy when we look at the parallels in our lives. We started on the journey that we experience than even the work we're doing now. They're incredible how many parallels we have? And in fact, I think our careers came to a close the same week in Los Angeles and we're the same sweet memory in a way. I was that guy who is like I said barely hanging on and yet I joined with you know, some of my greatest friends and teammates Peter vidmar Mitch Gaylord and Tim Daggett the three UCLA Bruins and then Scott Johnson and Jim Hartung from Nebraska and I was the loan Oklahoma Sooner we grew up and we hated each other is college Rivals, although I don't think hate was the right word, but we were certainly intense competitive rivals.
29:52 And we had to set that all aside to come together to work together to try to win a medal for the United States which had never been done. And the course we won the gold medal over the Chinese by Les point they were the current world champions. And so it was a sweet moment to stand up there with my teammates and hear that national anthem and and and realize that at this late stage of my career that I gymnastics cycle and complete Journey was was coming to such a sweet and beautiful ending and then a couple of days later. I want to go metal on parallel bars scoring a 10 in my final performance and and you know, sometimes people say when do you know your routine of your life and get a Chan and get a gold medal especially when you're old and everyone is written you off. I I said there's there's my exit right there your your your final performance.
30:52 The bean to this day still gives me chills Kathy because of all that you had been through and this very tough Journey as it is for any great champion and the disappointment that you didn't quite have the Olympics you wanted to have and all of it on your shoulders at that very moment. When you stepped up to the beam and to this day, I will remember that sort of sublime performance that you delivered to win that medal in Los Angeles on being in the finals end it. I know it's a very powerful memory for you as well it is because and now I have an opportunity to share this with you cuz I don't think
31:33 Or any of the guys on the team knew how much of an impact.
31:39 How much?
31:41 You guys meant to me the men's team and what a source of
31:47 Not just inspiration, but strength.
31:53 Men approached gymnastics differently and I learned that and you guys shared so much with me just about the toughness. I watched you guys go at it. And actually I think you could have used during the day and it was so it was with great respect respect and and I needed some of that because there's a part of me. That's just
32:25 You know be pretty and be elegant and be not you know in and try to be perfect and try to be there and you guys at every turn would you stop relaxed? Stop trying to be perfect. How about trying to be tough? Oh my gosh, that was such a New Concept to me. But anyways, so I the crossroads that I found myself after making that move out to California and trust me. It's at the when I first got out there. I thought oh my god what have I done? I walked into a gym with all these young gymnast who were just at the height of of their of everything, you know, and I'm coming off an injury 9 months that I hadn't done anything that I thought I've done. I can't even walk there something seriously wrong with Mike and it's a tow a big toe for gosh sakes, you know, but boy, is it an important part of your body for gymnastics?
33:25 Anyways on a walk and I thought what have I done? I can't even begin.
33:32 Took to do one with of things that you guys are doing 3 sets of 20, you know for conditions like oh my God. So anyways, I just I got to work got to work and
33:46 The 83 world championships with the culmination
33:50 Of the hardest. I'd ever worked the hardest. I never pushed myself the hardest I've ever allowed anybody else to push me and
34:01 It was the most incredible experience. I can't even explain it. The best of the world is there and I just I felt on top of the world finishing 11th in in the all-around and had we had new life back. Then I would have been in the top six. We didn't we change that rule in after you and I were tired we had to carry our scores all the way from compulsory optional, but I was so proud of myself. So honored to be on the floor with with truly some of the greats in our Sport and to do so well and more important.
34:40 Dawn Peters with Emma Nashville coach and who would now been my personal coach for that lead up to that?
34:48 All of sudden so excited about me.
34:51 Like so excited with the Olympics ahead and in my in my mind, I'm going I don't know if I could do it again that maybe it that's a scary feeling when you feel like that may have been it that may have been my my masterpiece my the culmination of everything that I've done everything I've been through and I finally that would have been a wonderful time to to walk away from me. Just personally just you know, except
35:19 9 months later, what do we have?
35:22 Olympic Games and not just the Olympic Games the Olympic Games in Los Angeles where I was training, so it's like home and this is why I Circle back to you guys all my buddies. All my buddies are going to be there.
35:40 And they're going to compete and we're going to compete in this opportunity.
35:47 You don't want to miss it.
35:49 You don't want to miss it, but I also know something about myself and if I had anything to do over again, I'd go back and I would have acknowledged this sooner to people that could have helped me.
36:02 I was never good at coming off a high like I was at World Championships. I was on a high I felt good in that had had I just been guided back home and and into Trent, you know, like you got to rest you have to come down. You can't stay up there. I know that but I crash I crash and burn.
36:25 That was my that was my what happens and without any kind of guidance and then it didn't help. I got sick. I got the flu that everybody else had gotten before the me. I got it on the way home. So I miss him training and then each day would go by and I could not get myself to get out of the house and go to the gym.
36:44 I was going into a depression into a funk into and then I doubt it everything. It's like so you must have been almost two weeks ago by I'd literally get dressed for the gym.
36:57 And I just sat there and I wouldn't go and then I got a knock on the door.
37:02 And it was Don Peters and he looked and it was so embarrassing to open the door.
37:10 The lights are on in the house.
37:13 No Shades were up.
37:16 And it was the proverbial is like a scene in a movie that I'm sitting in this dark house, and I'm dressed for gym.
37:26 And he said I had I heard rumors. You were alive. I couldn't open my mouth. Everything's going to show this weakness this this Frailty this, you know, crumbling mess that I'm a crumbling mess and
37:49 Salve Sunnyside
37:53 Do you have any idea what you've just done not 24, he's already thinking like I can do new skills and all this stuff and I so I thought so hard to get some I believe in me again to believe I could actually do this thing and I can actually make an Olympic team and compete at the Olympic Games and now I'm afraid I can't do it and fortunately
38:20 For me, I got it at least walk back in the gym and it was horrible. It was absolutely horrible for I don't even know how long it took me, you know a month to make up the ground that I lost it the whole that I dug myself. I dug it myself.
38:34 And then tried to deal with the you know, being angry at yourself for digging yourself this hole and now you got to climb back out but
38:44 To be able to
38:47 To finish
38:50 At the Olympic Games
38:53 With friends and people that I admired and respected and who even when they didn't know they were helping me.
39:05 Let the world know so if I had two parallel anybody's career, I'm glad I parallel yours Bart dear friend and
39:17 I could not have been happier.
39:22 Then when you guys one that team gold you did put a hell of a lot of pressure on us women. Sorry to bother you. This is this is the the ban of inch, 25 years of age. Nothing is beneath me. Nothing at the moment. You guys want to hear screaming and yelling cuz we had to leave early, you know cuz way to get that we have to compete the next day. We had to go back to to celebrate, you know, and everybody was screaming and yelling excited and and but inside of me, I'm like, oh my God.
40:06 The pressure that is just been placed on this.
40:12 On a 6 young women and I'm I'm a month from 25 and I got a lot of baggage and then we've got a Tracee Talavera and Julia McNamara with all three of us have been on The A-Team.
40:36 The boycotting didn't get to compete and
40:40 There was so much special there to celebrate and them Christmas Mary Lou who's on fire. I mean, this is her. This was her time and then my the babies on our team.
40:52 $10 and Michelle beasts are who are so special to me. They were like that was a distressed me though. They were like my my children, I didn't realize how how well-suited I was going to be to be a mom. But I already felt like them all of this team and and trying to enter the arena the next day knowing the pressure that that we were under because we'd like you you guys competing against the best China that's what made it. So awesome. By the way that yes, it was a boycotted Olympic Games.
41:36 We all acknowledge that in the lot of the best in the world weren't there but but for you guys you got to compete against.
41:45 And when with the defending world champions on the floor and a team that you would so admired to so
41:55 Special times in 84, you know how much I've admired you for many many years and only with your incredible career the the way you have been so transparent about sharing your story the work you and I do together now with the SEC in ESPN network to celebrate Collegiate gymnastics and what's happening in the explosion of growth and interest in women's college in Massachusetts. So it's been a joy to travel this journey for you. And another thing I admire about you Kathy is that you have used your platform for advocacy for girls and women in sport and I think you have been exemplary and setting the example and helping helping navigate. Certainly what is been a very challenging time for now in gymnastics, but all Youth Sports in Olympic sports, and so you have a message that you would like to share with girls and
42:55 These days be your perspective is rather rich.
43:01 Yes, if I could tell all little girls right now.
43:05 What are you?
43:07 Embarked on your your journey of trying to become the best. You can possibly be at something you have fallen in love with to look at yourself in the mirror.
43:22 Tell yourself.
43:25 You're beautiful. You're wonderful. You're enough the exactly the way you are because we have especially our sport.
43:33 It's a judge sport.
43:38 It's it it's difficult physically mentally emotionally and require so much of us and end.
43:48 You're so willing to put it all on the line when we work so hard and we allow people access.
43:59 To us
44:02 We allow a coach to critique has we allow coaches to push us to be our absolute best.
44:13 But we have to find the inner strength and then and the knowledge and belief that we can use our voice.
44:23 To speak up and protect ourselves when enough is enough.
44:36 And I can tell people from my journey cuz I learned it in in in an instant.
44:44 When things are at their absolute absolute worse, and you mention my last beam routine.
44:51 And that was
44:55 I'm so glad I had that opportunity because it followed a devastating all-around competition as you know devastating I shattered my heart I fell twice and so I had to come back from that to be given the opportunity to get back up on a balance beam scared as I was cuz that was an event iPhone on two days before.
45:21 Because of the way things worked out and right before I got up on the balance beam, I was reminded.
45:29 Suddenly, it was almost like being thrown back to my 12 year old self when I saluted the judge.
45:37 I felt like I was
45:40 12 years old back in my backyard
45:44 On my G on my balance beam that I was lucky enough to have in my backyard.
45:50 Playing gymnastics
45:53 I even flashed through my mind my first coach coached at my used to say before we'd ever do a skill for the very first time without spot. It's a do-or-die for Hoover Junior High in Cross himself. I said that to myself before I go home game. I mean me right before I send you so you saw you described it as Sublime.
46:24 It was surreal what I got to experience in that moment. I thought it might have been the end of my life because things were passing in front of me is like facing a good.
46:48 But I got up on being my first pass as I'm dancing for the end of the beam. I could feel the tree in my backyard that the branch that used to hang over the tree where I put my chalk up there. So I didn't have to jump down up and down to get my chalk. I would keep it up in the tree branch off to the side.
47:09 And I envisioned my grandfather came through the gate. He lived on the other Street. My grandfather would walk from 8th Avenue through the neighbor's yard to our back gate and it's right at the end of my balance beam. I'm seeing this drink teen routine of my life.
47:29 And then I had to focus because the very next pass is the one I had fallen on two days before.
47:37 When my feet landed
47:41 After hitting I don't even want to say it's the routine of my life. I've done a better balance beam routine in terms of difficulty 9 months before at the world championships in my in my mind the best team in this was the toughest
47:59 Yeah precious routine of my life.
48:04 But I got to stick the landing.
48:07 And turn to a judge and put my hands over my head and it's that feeling that you get when you come full circle.
48:16 Cuz I knew it was. That's it. I am done.
48:21 And I feel contentment.
48:24 I took the field that that's what drives me in speaking out.
48:32 For girls and women
48:35 Because I don't want anything.
48:38 Anything to damage
48:40 That little girl dream because you carry it with you forever. I could why am I so quick to tears when I talk about this? I'm 61 years old. Why am I crying again? Because you carry that that little girl.
48:57 Alter your life.
48:59 Everything that she experienced everything she felt everything. She's been given everything that's been taken away from her.
49:07 Everything is all right there.
49:10 But it's so precious that we have to treated as such. That's why I'm honest and I speak out for
49:19 I want I want us to do better.
49:23 We need to do better in gymnastics. We can't we cannot maintain a culture that is.
49:35 That is so driven by the success by whether it's metals or winning or money, whatever it is.
49:43 If we forget what's most important and what's most important is every single child that walks through the door and come to the gym regardless of their level of talent what their dream as we have to treat it as precious.
50:03 And we all need to be held accountable. We are the eyes ears and conscience of our Sport and it's hard sometimes especially when we have to share stories or experiences.
50:17 About things that happened
50:23 And it deals with people that we we also love and Emmy did so much for us and yet
50:31 They also made mistakes. They also did wrong.
50:36 We need to be able to address that so that we can do better. That's how we do better.
50:42 Kathy another parallel that you and I have in our lives is that we married late. You course. Brian Patrick Clarke renowned actor and you have a son named Sean who is now getting his Master's in engineering from Texas A&M and he's a pole vaulter. And of course, I married late married Nadia Comaneci to Romanian Olympic Legend and we had a child late is well her son. Dylan is an 8th grader. He's 14 years of age and he's very 14 right now. If you know what I mean on the side for some personal advice about raising a teenage son, but you know, I just can't tell you how much I love you Kathy and what a joy I cherish our friendship cherish the parallel Journey that we've experienced. I cherish the work we do together now because I think we're pretty powerful team as advocates for safety and our sport, but we're also celebrating.
51:42 The good things about her sport because there are many and you know people often say they they may forget what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel and you're brilliant at helping us understand what it really feels like to take that Journey because it's a whole lot more than leotards and pinpoint owes and you know bus trips and is a lot deeper connection to finding out who you are. What makes you tick and end so I can't tell you how much I admire you Kathy love you and and celebrate your your remarkable career and just proud that we ran long side by side for all of it.
52:27 Well, as always you say it the best part and it's what I love most about.
52:34 Are sport because because it isn't easy.
52:42 Our job is to make it look easy.
52:44 And I think we've all done a remarkable job of making really difficult skills and difficult routines look easy and effortless as we should but we know we all know what goes into it.
52:59 You are such a good man.
53:03 Above and beyond amazing gymnast you were
53:08 You're an even better man.
53:10 And roll model everybody coming up. So that's what I cherish about the sport and it is the people it's not just how gifted they were and how much success they had. But your decency empathy your genuine kindness and caring.
53:29 Of your fellow human beings is what sets you apart.
53:34 I love you Kathy. I love you, too.