Engaged US gymnasts seeking spots in Olympics

Gymnasts Alaina Williams and Steven Legendre can only dream of

what it would be like if they’re able to make it to the London

Olympics this summer.

Both are trying to represent the U.S. in separate gymnastics

disciplines, and Legendre also serves as Williams’ coach. On top of

that, try to add in the time it would take to plan their upcoming

wedding.

”That’s a lot to do,” Williams said. ”We put it off.”

First, it’s London calling.

Williams is trying to become the lone representative at the

Olympics for the U.S. women’s trampoline program. The relatively

new Olympic sport involves bouncing at heights of up to 30 feet

while executing twists and flips, some standard for all competitors

and some left up to the gymnast to decide what level of difficulty

to attempt.

Legendre is attempting to make the more mainstream gymnastics

team, competing on familiar events such as the rings, floor

exercise and high bar.

”We both know what each other is going through. If she’s having

a rough day, I understand and try and help her maybe with something

that would help me, and I think she does the same,” Legendre said.

”It’s definitely nice. Sometimes it can be frustrating being

around people that don’t know what you’re going through just

because maybe they don’t understand the mental and physical energy

that you have to put forward for it.”

Williams’ quest for the Olympics began in earnest this weekend

in Tulsa, with the first of three qualifying legs. The second

qualifying event is in Cleveland in May, and the last one will be

in San Jose, Calif., in late June.

She recorded a score of 50.845 to finish third, behind Savannah

Vinsant (52.710) and Dakota Earnest (51.440), and will have to make

up ground in the remaining two qualifying events.

Only the gymnasts’ best two performances will count, and the

final event holds the most weight by offering higher point totals

to the best finishers.

”You really have to want to do this,” Williams said. ”You

can’t want to have such a social life and everything. It’s

dedication.”

That includes waiting until next April to get married. In the

meantime, Legendre is serving as his fiancee’s coach even though he

has no history with trampoline specifically. Legendre finished

sixth in the all-around at last year’s U.S. Gymnastics

Championships and was the national champion on vault the year

before. He also won the NCAA all-around title in 2009 at

Oklahoma.

”I have a background in gymnastics,” he said. ”It’s very

similar as far as technicality. I don’t obviously know the way

every single skill feels. I can feel it in my head but I would need

to get up on the (trampoline) and do it … but a lot of it is very

similar as far as takeoff angles, body positions and things like

that.”

Williams and Legendre first met five years ago when she was

living at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colo.,

and he came to town for a meet. Legendre first caught her eye when

he went off the vault and ended up slamming into a wall.

”So, when he first started kind of talking to me, I was like,

`Are you that guy who ran into the wall?”’ she said. ”He was

like, `Yeah, that’s me.”’

A little over a year ago, Williams moved to join Legendre in

Norman, where they’re able to train at the gym where Legendre used

to practice with the Sooners – who have national contenders in both

men’s and women’s gymnastics.

”It’s fun. I like to be around him because he’s really

motivational for me,” Williams said. ”I don’t know if I’m so

motivational for him. It’s nice having someone who’s there with

you. If I get stressed out, he understands. It makes it a lot

easier.”

When Williams is bouncing on the trampoline, Legendre is 20 or

30 feet below holding a mat to slide under in case she ends up off

target.

”It works good most days. Some days, it’s a little rougher –

just like any coach and athlete relationship,” Legendre said. ”We

try and keep the relationship, our personal relationship, outside

of the gym obviously. We try and keep the gym outside of our

personal relationship.

”I’d definitely be lying if I didn’t say it was hard because it

is. It’s just human nature to act like you normally act towards

each other.”

If both are able to get through an exciting but stressful few

months and make the Olympics, there’s one last problem: Who’s going

to take care of their dogs while they’re in London?

”It would be incredible. I don’t think either of us will know

until we are actually … there, how cool it would be,” Legendre

said.

”But we’re not counting our chickens before they hatch. We’ve

still got both a lot of work to do.”