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
”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
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
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
”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
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
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
”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
”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
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
”But we’re not counting our chickens before they hatch. We’ve
still got both a lot of work to do.”