Feb. 15, 2010
OU senior gymnast Hollie Vise was recently quizzed by Fox Sports Southwest Big 12 Showcase producer Keith Fletcher on a variety of topics ranging from her success as an elite gymnast to a reflection of her time at the University of Oklahoma.
The Dallas native has guided the Sooners to the first No. 1 ranking in program history and has won the uneven bars title at every meet this season en route to a No. 4 ranking nationally on the apparatus.
Below is an excerpt from the Q&A session. For the complete interview, please visit www.foxsportssouthwest.com.
Former Olympic hopeful, now a Sooner senior, in a Q&A.
Oklahoma senior gymnast Hollie Vise entered college with credentials rarely seen from any Big 12 student-athlete. Competing as an elite gymnast, Vise was the USA national champion on the uneven bars in 2002 and ’03. She was also the World Champion on bars in ’03 while helping lead the USA to the team title. A back injury hampered her efforts to make the USA Olympic team in 2004, though many will argue that her performance at Trials warranted a spot in the Athens Games. Now as her collegiate career is wrapping up, Oklahoma is on a roll. This week the Sooners vaulted to #1 in the national rankings. Big 12 Showcase producer Keith Fletcher recently quizzed the former world champion.
FS Southwest: It seems like forever ago that you were competing in the World Championships. You’ve become quite a veteran in the sport. Do you, just as a college senior, ever find other competitors who come up to you saying “I used to watch you growing up” or stuff like that?
It happens every once in a while.. I think it's funny when someone says something like that because I feel like I am the exact same as them because we are competing on the same level. The funniest was when I first got to OU and one of my teammates, who was also a senior, told me that she had an autographed picture of me from years before. We ended up being roommates and she would always joke around that she was going to hang up the autographed picture in her room. I made sure that never happened.
FS Southwest: What are some important things you keep from those years as an elite gymnast, competing against the best in the world and being on the cusp of the Olympics?
One thing that I have always held onto was something that my coach always told me. He would say, “Hard work never disappears." He also told me that someone else could be out there working harder than me if I didn't give it my all. It always motivated me to put 110 percent into everything I did. I learned at a young age that every detail mattered which made me a perfectionist. I still hold onto that quality, which I think has helped me in collegiate gymnastics. Competing at Worlds and being so close to making the Olympics just gave me a lot of experience and a very competitive edge. I learned what true dedication was during that very important growing stage of my life.
FS Southwest: What are some things you’d just assume people forget about and move past?
I don't know that there is anything I would want people to just forget about. I think that every little moment, even the not so good moments, makes a story special. So I wouldn't say there is anything that I want anyone to just forget about. People still tell me how sorry they are that I didn't make the Olympics and that I deserved to be there. It's nice to have people that really care and that believe I should have been there. I guess I would just say I don't want anyone feeling sorry for me. I've moved on and I am happy. I love competing in college. It would have been awesome to compete in the Olympics but the Olympics aren't everything. There are things much more important in life.
FS Southwest: Success like what you had at such a young age is often hard to follow, even with just the reputation that follows. What are some of the challenges you’ve had related to that?
I did have some gymnastics issues, especially because I took a lot of time off between 2004 and 2006 when I got to OU. I had grown up, I wasn't a little girl anymore, along with not doing much of any gymnastics. It was a major challenge coming back and particularly comparing myself to the gymnast I was before. I guess it is hard to compare with what I did early on in my gymnastics career, but I see it as a completely different journey. I don't compare what I do now with what I did then. I'm just happy with the progress I have made each year since I've been at OU.
FS Southwest: You’re friends with Olympic gold medal winners Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin. You all trained at the same place - World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in suburban Dallas. What kind of contact do keep with them?
Carly and I still keep in touch all the time. I see her every time I go home to Dallas and she has been to OU to visit me before. We talk on the phone and text quite a bit. We keep in touch as much as we can but she is one of those friends that even if we didn't talk for months we could get together and nothing will have changed. I talk to Nastia every now and then and I usually see her when I am in Dallas if our schedules happen to work out. They are both awesome friendships that I know will last forever.
FS Southwest: Carly had some injuries and walked away from gymnastics after the Athens Games. Nastia went to SMU, but not to compete in gymnastics. It’s not something that every successful elite gymnast does, everyone has their own circumstances, but what do you think they missed out on, not competing collegiately?
I think that having the opportunity to go to school and be a part of a team is such an amazing experience. College gymnastics is a different world than elite gymnastics. It doesn't take up as much of your time, it's easier on your body and it's a completely different atmosphere. It's really just a lot of fun and I think that any gymnast would enjoy the experience. My teammates are my best friends here and I have awesome coaches. They have helped me grow a lot in the gym and out of the gym. Doing college gymnastics made me love the sport all over again after my long break.
FS Southwest: You’ve competed in one of the pinnacle events of your sport, performing in front of thousands of people like few ever will. As a collegian at OU, do you still get the butterflies, the genuine joy of competing?
I love competing in college. I enjoyed competing in Elite as well but I was much more nervous back then. Now I am able to relax and have fun. It also helps having a team that is always behind you, supporting you 100 percent. I wouldn't describe myself as the really "nervous" type but I still get the butterflies from time to time, but they are good butterflies.
FS Southwest: What are some of your pre-competition rituals and/or superstitions?
I have this little wooden frog that my brother (Brad) gave me for good luck at one of my meets when I was probably 13. I've taken it to every single meet since then. It's always in my gym bag. Other than that, I'm not very superstitious. There are certain things our team always do. We have a banging and clapping OU chant that we do before every meet and we always pray before we start the meet.
FS Southwest: You mentioned the time away from gymnastics you took after your elite days, before coming to Oklahoma. You’ve also said in previous interviews that coming to OU was something of a new beginning for you. How do you feel like your career has evolved and regenerated itself since coming to Norman and developing under K.J. (Kindler, OU head coach)?
I feel like I am a different person than when I arrived on campus at OU. It has taken so much hard work to get where I am today, especially my freshman year when I had just arrived. KJ knew just what to do in order to get me where I needed to be and she did it in a way where I didn't get burnt out. She was always able to motivate me, which was really important. I have made major improvements from year to year since I have been here and I have our coaching staff and my wonderful teammates for that.
FS Southwest: Charles Barkley once famously said that he shouldn’t be any kid’s role model, and went as far as to implore parents not to allow their kids to see him as a role model. Kids are always going to look up to athletes who compete at a high level, doing things they hope to do some day. Where does the role-model line get drawn in your book?
I know children will always look up to their favorite athletes as role models but I think a true role model shouldn't just be someone who is a good athlete. Children should look up to people who want to make a difference in the world, people who help others that need it, people who live the right way. I'm not saying that there aren't athletes out there that hold all of these qualities because I know there are. I'm just saying that the role model image shouldn’t automatically fall on someone because they are a good athlete.
FS Southwest: Another cliché’ but, what’s your favorite class right now, and why?
Adolescent Issues. I enjoy this class because I love kids. This class addresses a lot of issues that adolescents go through. Everyone in the class gets a chance to give their opinion about these issues, say why they think they exist and how they can be fixed.
FS Southwest: Fixing adolescents? Wow. Ideally, what would you like to do after college?
I wish I could say I knew exactly. I am in the process of figuring all of that out. I would like to stay at OU and get my masters degree. If I don't do that I will be looking for a job very soon. If I don't have a steady job by the time I graduate I will probably coach until I find one.
CLICK HERE FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE INTERVIEW