Jan. 9, 2009
NORMAN, Okla. - Reigning Big 12 bars champion Hollie Vise was featured in a recent ESPN article by David Hinojosa. The Dallas, Texas, junior and her Oklahoma teammates open the season tonight at the University of Florida. Below is the first half of the story with a link to the full ESPN article.
Hollie Vise and gymnastics are friends again.
Vise, a junior for the 10th-ranked Oklahoma women's gymnastics team, is enjoying renewed enthusiasm for a sport that once led to the biggest disappointment in her life.
The 21-year-old Dallas native begins the 2009 season Friday at No. 3 Florida as the Big 12's defending champion on the uneven bars, an event on which she was once a world champion.
Coach R.J. Kindler expects big contributions from Vise on the bars and balance beam as the Sooners try to build on their program-best eighth-place finish at nationals last year.
"It's nice to see that she loves gymnastics again," Vise's mother LeeAnn said, "because for two years, I don't think she did."
The Hollie Vise Reclamation Project seems to be working.
It began 2½ years ago -- "ground zero," as Vise calls it -- when she arrived at Oklahoma still reeling from the disappointment of not making the 2004 Olympic squad.
She had no motivation, no confidence and was woefully out of shape.
"I was let down a lot," Vise said. Going to the Olympics "had been my goal for so long."
Placing Vise on an intense cardio and strength conditioning program would be easy enough. But restoring Vise's confidence was another matter.
"I do think she came in defeated from her experience at the elite level," Kindler said. "There was a lot of pushing, and there was a lot of encouragement."
Vise is a product of the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in Plano, Texas, the gym that produced the past two Olympic all-around champions, Carly Patterson in 2004 and Nastia Liukin in 2008.
Vise was on top of the gymnastics world in 2003. At the World Championships, then-15-year-old Vise helped the United States win a team gold and won a share of the gold on bars with teammate Chellsie Memmel. That seemed to clear a path for Vise to the 2004 Athens Games.
But Vise was diagnosed with a compressed disc in her back early in 2004 and withdrew from the national championships in June that year. She was able to perform on the bars and beam at the Olympic Trials three weeks later, but back pain forced her to scale down her routines. At the final Olympic team selection camp a few weeks later, Vise fell off the beam in her last routine of the camp.
She was crushed when she didn't hear her name called as the team was announced live on national television.
"The whole world saw me when I realized that all my dreams went down the drain," Vise said.
Luikin knew that was a big blow for Vise. Not only did Vise endure the disappointment of not making the Olympics, but she watched Patterson, her close friend, become an instant celebrity by winning the all-around gold. Vise and Patterson trained alongside each other several years leading to the 2004 Games. Though Liukin trained with another group, she knows both very well.
"I was with her in the gym every single day and saw how much effort and how much determination she put into it," said Liukin, a longtime friend of Vise. "To see her come up from a little short must have been real hard for her."
Vise decided to take a break. It was supposed to be for a month or so, but then she withdrew from an overseas competition in early 2005.
To read the full article, click here