INDIANAPOLIS, July 28, 2014 – U.S. Military Academy gymnast Andrew Avelino of Trabuco Canyon, Calif., will receive the 2014 USA Gymnastics Robert Miller Spirit of the Flame Award at the 2014 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Pittsburgh, on Aug. 22 at the Westin Hotel-Pittsburgh. Avelino was chosen because of his courage in overcoming adversity and continuing to follow his dream to serve his country in the United States Army. Avelino, who is majoring in foreign area studies, is expected to graduate from West Point in December 2014.
“Andrew was chosen for the Robert Miller Spirit of the Flame Award due to his drive to succeed and his spirit to never give up even when faced with an unimaginable and sudden injury,” said Karl Heger, member of the USA Gymnastics Athlete Council and Board of Directors. “His continued determination and dedication to his West Point Gymnastic team, his ability to overcome the obstacles of his injury and his continued journey to serve his country as an officer in the United States Army are a true reflection of sport of gymnastics.“
Before being recruited by West Point, Avelino trained at and competed as a Junior Olympian for South Coast Gymnastics, where he achieved success in local, regional and national competitions.
During his freshman year at West Point, Avelino was injured in a freak accident and had his foot and part of his leg amputated. Rather than giving up on his dreams to compete in gymnastics and become an Army officer, Avelino worked hard at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to learn how to walk and run with a prosthesis.
Thanks to support from his gymnastics teammates and hard work, Avelino officially returned to West Point as a full-time cadet and member of the gymnastics team in August 2012. After a knee injury, Avelino focused on pommel horse and horizontal bar and developed into one of West Point’s top high bar specialists, scoring a 13.2 in his first meet back, placing seventh overall. He was awarded the Gene Wettstone Award as the meet’s outstanding competitor and was named the Eastern College Athletic Conference Gymnast of the Week. Avelino’s determination to reach his goals has inspired his teammates, opponents and those who watched him compete.
Founded in 1987, the Robert Miller Spirit of the Flame Award recognizes athletes and individuals in the gymnastics world who demonstrate leadership, strength and determination in an extraordinary way. The award was renamed in 2011 after Staff Sergeant Robert Miller, who received the Medal of Honor after saving fellow soldiers during a 2008 ambush in Afghanistan. For more information on the award, please go to legacy.usagym.org.