Better than gold: Olympic medalist relishes chance to perform for fans

Better than gold: Olympic medalist relishes chance to perform for fans
USA Gymnastics / John Cheng

She’s hoping fans flipped for the show.

Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber was in Brooklyn on Nov. 6, performing in the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions at Barclays Center and hopefully sparking an interest in the sport for a whole new generation of fans, she said.

“It’s very different than a lot gymnastic competitions you see on TV,” Wieber said of the post-Olympics tour. “It’s a lot of fun and a chance to kind of celebrate our success in the Olympics with all our fans across the United States.”

Wieber — who announced her retirement from elite gymnastics in 2015 — was quick to tour again this year, anxious to team up with the “Final Five” women’s gymnastics team that dominated at this year’s Rio Olympics.

The high-flying tour is far less pressure than the world-wide competition. There are no judges and no scores — just cheers from the crowd and, as far as Wieber is concerned, that’s just about as good as a gold medal.

“I call it a celebration,” she said. “So we just go out there and have some fun and get to relax because we’ve trained our whole lives to compete at the Olympics. This is just our chance to go out and perform and we really have fun during it.”

Wieber doesn’t do too many pure gymnastics moves while on tour — she leaves that up to the current stars — opting instead to focus her performance on crowd participation and instruction. She’s already got plenty of experience coaching — currently she’s working with the University of California Los Angeles gymnastics team while she pursues her degree — and she relishes the chance to talk to the sport’s youngest fans, especially at a well-sold venue like Barclays Center.

“I pick someone from the crowd and teach them a back flip, and I always tell the audience it reminds me of when I first started gymnastics,” Wieber said. “I look into the audience, and I see all the young kids, and it brings me back to when I first started, and I wanted to be like the Olympians. It’s really cool, and hopefully we inspire a lot of kids.”

Wieber has been part of the gymnastics world since she was 4 years old — jumping on trampolines and into ball pits before setting her sights on Olympic gold — and she’s certain that events like this are exactly what the program needs to keep the United States at the top of its game.

After all, gymnastics in this country isn’t just competitive, it’s the best in the world. The United States team won a whopping 12 medals in Rio, including another team gold for the women’s squad, and Wieber doesn’t see that changing any time soon — especially if future stars continue to come out for tours like this one.

“Every time the Olympics comes around, you see the United States making the gap a little bit bigger,” Wieber said. “I think the United States could probably build three Olympic teams there’s so much depth. I just see things getting brighter, and we’re just going to continue to dominate. I truly believe that.”