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Gymnast and mom of two makes a comeback after 9 years to face competitors half her age

Memmel said her comeback was also a statement to those who tell gymnasts their career is over after they become a mother.

Gymnast and mom of two makes a comeback after 9 years to face competitors half her age
Image source: Instagram/@cmemmel23

Chellsie Memmel, a mother of two children and an Olympic silver medal winner, made an inspiring comeback to gymnastics almost nine years after her retirement. The 32-year-old competed with those half her age at the U.S. Classic and proved that age was nothing but a number. Memmel was the world's all-around champion in 2015 and has a lot more accolades to her name. To return to the arena meant the world to her. "It's here, it’s day complete. Very weird walking into the arena as a gymnast again but amazing at the same time. Everyone was so welcoming and supportive and I couldn’t have asked for a better first time back out on the floor," wrote Memmel after her final practice on the eve of her comeback, reported Today.

PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 22: Chellsie Memmel reacts after competing in the floor exercise during day four of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for gymnastics at the Wachovia Center on June 22, 2008 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)


Memmel made an impressive comeback as she completed a full-twisting Yurchenko on her vault with a score of 13.750. She had a slight stumble on the beam but recovered well to score 11.800. Many who witnessed her as a teenager were reminded of her graceful movements. Memmel is proud of her comeback and added that it was a statement to those who kept calling on gymnasts to quit the sport in their early 20s. "You're having fun, you're seeing how far you can actually take this when people said you should have retired when you were 20 or when you were 24 or you can't have kids and come back to a sport," said Memmel.


Memmel was a star gymnast as a teenager. She also clinched a silver medal with the U.S. women's gymnastics team at the Beijing Olympics alongside teammates Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin, in 2008. She retired in 2012 before getting married and having two kids. Gymnastics is usually dominated by teenagers with many athletes retiring in the early 20s. Memmel had also quit early in her 20s. Though she retired from the competitive circuit, she was always involved in the sport, working as a coach and a judge on various occasions.




It was at the onset of the pandemic that Memmel started training again. She user her parents' gym in West Berlin, Wisconsin to train with her father and coach, Andy Memmel. She decided to make a comeback but she also wanted to show that gymnastics doesn't have an age limit and that it can be fun. The 32-year-old was training for 15 hours per week on average, which is comparatively less than the workout schedules of gymnasts.


Competitive gymnasts typically have a grueling schedule; Memmel says it takes the fun out of the gymnastics and it shouldn't have to be that way. “I've had so many emotions about it, but the main thing is just frustration and anger that so many gymnasts have not had a good experience, especially at the highest level,” she told the Wall Street Journal. "I know there’s a way that you can succeed in a positive environment."


"It’s important also for me to share just to show that there doesn’t need to be an age limit or a time limit on what we’re doing," she said in a YouTube video on her channel. She documented her journey back to the competitive arena, often uploading videos of her training sessions in the build-up to her comeback. Her old teammate Liukin cheered Memmel on. "SO incredibly proud of you Chel," tweeted Liukin. "You are inspiring the entire world — every generation — showing that age is truly just a number AND your true love and passion for the sport." 



Memmel says her comeback should serve as a motivation for anyone who wants to take another shot at an opportunity. "I just wanted to put that message out to anybody who thought they missed their chance at something or didn't get a chance to try it or who wanted to go back to their sport even just for fun. No one should be stopping you. Just don't hold yourself back," she told reporters. "Go for it."



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