It seems as though it is becoming routine. Another Olympic Summer games and more gold for our Women’s Gymnastics team and America. It wasn’t always this easy, though. There was a time not so long ago that our ladies team was all but a punchline to a bad joke when the summer games rolled around.
It would not be (for America) for eight more years that America would be competitive and put up a legitimate challenge in women’s gymnastics. The games of 1984 introduced to the world the name of Mary Lou Retton. When speaking of climatic endings worthy of a book and movie, this year and this moment was it. The last challenge of the last day and the last competitor who needed a perfect score to win everything.
And she did not disappoint. Mary Lou’s smiling face on the pint-sized frame could be seen everywhere. Without question, for years to come, Little Miss Retton was America’s Princess living the American dream. After Mary Lou came names which in America would become household. There have been Shawn, Gabby, Aly and now a pint-sized dynamo by the name of Simone. There were many between Mary Lou and Gabby who won truckloads of medals on a global scale as well.
So, how did this happen? How did our great nation go from being a wannabe gymnastics team who was perennially looking up to being the team to beat on a worldwide basis? What if I told you it was because of a mattress salesman from Houston, Texas?
If one is from South Texas, then you have no doubt seen many of his television commercials.
Have you figured out “Mattress Mack’s” catchphrase yet?
Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale was another who lived the American dream. He began very modestly and grew his company (Gallery Furniture) into a furniture store Godzilla in the South Texas and Houston Metropolitan Area. “Mack” who would not for years later let it be known was quietly “behind the scenes” doing his part for our great nation sports programs.
About the time “Mack” decided to jump headlong into “doing his part,” came a meeting with the phenom gymnastics coach “Bela Karolyi” from Transylvania and Romania. It was Karolyi who had guided Nadia and so many more to Olympic Gold. He was widely known as the best of the best in the gymnastics world, and he was “DEFECTING” to America.
The issue of defecting can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you garner your freedom to become an American and fulfill all your dreams. The down-side to this risky jump to freedom is, you leave everything behind. You’re usually showing up with whatever money you have in your wallet, the clothes on your back and that is usually how you enter our great nation. That is for most people.
If you happen to be a defector who has a “Gold Encrusted Resume” with a face that is known globally for training the greatest lady gymnasts on the planet, then you usually will have a leg up on the average defector.
Now you have something called “Team Mack/Karolyi”. Bella needed a new gymnasium to train girls and Mack delivered the dream. For Macks efforts, America jumped with glee when we watched Kerry Scruggs jump into Bella’s arms as she won the gold on a broken foot.
This video was shot in 1986, but today Bella still live on their 2000 acre Texas ranch.
They still have their training camps and they still turn out champions. In fact, Bella’s wife is at the Olympics in Rio standing guard over Aly, Gabby, Simone and the rest of their “girls”.
Tonight as you watch the Olympics and the next time you watch a video of an “American” winning in Women’s Gymnastics remember to say a silent thank you to the “Goofy Guy” who sells mattresses in Houston. We all owe him a huge thank you.
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