Chellsie Memmel has a world all-around gold medal tucked away somewhere. An Olympic silver medal, too. When she officially retired in 2012, Memmel went out on her own terms. She got married, had two kids, became an integral part of running the gym her family owns in New Berlin, Wisconsin, and earned a reputation as one of the country's most respected judges. And now the 32-year-old is doing something unexpected: mounting a return to competitive gymnastics by trying to make the US national team—while competing against some athletes born the year Memmel stood atop the podium in Melbourne, Australia in 2005 as the best female gymnast on the planet. Credit COVID-19 for the abrupt life change, explains the AP. When the pandemic hit last spring, Memmel suddenly found herself in an empty gym with time on her hands.
So she started fooling around: a skill here and there. Her body, which she says is "stronger now than it's ever been," responded. Muscle memory returned. Still, she's not immune to the physical toll the sport takes. While her thrice-repaired shoulder, which basically cost her a legitimate shot at making the 2012 Olympic team, is fine, an ankle injury last fall forced an adjustment to her timeline. She had hoped to be on the floor in Indianapolis this weekend at the Winter Cup, the first major domestic gymnastics competition in a year. Instead, the American Classic in April figures to be her first meet since May 2012. While it's not uncommon for international gymnasts to compete into their mid-20s and beyond—the seemingly ageless 45-year-old Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan will compete in her eighth Olympics this summer—it's much harder in the US, where the talent pool is the world's deepest. Memmel bristles when asked if she could be tarnishing her legacy if the reboot fails. "In other sports, nobody bats an eye when you go out and play it for fun, no matter what age you are."
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