USA Gymnastics assembles Athlete Task Force
posted on 07/13/2018

INDIANAPOLIS, July 13, 2018 – USA Gymnastics President and CEO Kerry Perry today announced five members of the organization’s newly created Athlete Task Force: Shenea Booth, acrobatic gymnastics; Ivana Hong, women’s gymnastics; Jazzy Kerber, rhythmic gymnastics; Steven Legendre, men’s gymnastics; and Leigh Hennessy Robson, trampoline and tumbling.

The Athlete Task Force was created to bring athletes into USA Gymnastics’ decision-making process in determining the path forward for the organization. Task Force members will be involved in the search for a permanent high-performance training facility; key athlete-focused initiatives for the organization; an athlete mentoring program; educational initiatives for safe sport; the concept of an ombudsman for USA Gymnastics athletes; and increasing involvement of former national team members and energizing the alumni network.

“USA Gymnastics appreciates the dedication these five incredible ambassadors bring to the sport, both for their history of competing in gymnastics and now for serving on our Athlete Task Force,” said Perry, who joined USA Gymnastics in December 2017. “Athletes are the heart and soul of our organization, and the Task Force will provide important perspective and guidance for making informed decisions and transforming our culture to one of empowerment, especially for athletes. Our athletes’ voices are important for our strategic planning and initiatives, and the Task Force will participate not only in our projects, like identifying a permanent high-performance training facility, but also bringing forth ideas and proposals that are important to them.”

The Athlete Task Force is a voluntary opportunity for up to nine former athletes, including the athlete directors on the Board of Directors for men’s and women’s gymnastics and one former elite athlete per competitive discipline with relevant work experience. Members commit to serving one year, with the option of a second term. The Task Force will complement the efforts of the Athletes’ Council, which is already heavily tasked with serving on the Board of Directors and its standing committees, as well as attending national team training camps and addressing the concerns of current athletes.

Each of the athletes has provided a statement about his or her participation on the Task Force that is included in full at the end, along with a brief bio. Here are excerpts from each of the athlete statements.

    “My sole purpose in participating in the Athlete Task Force is to provide insight from a victim and survivor’s perspective. I believe the athletes deserve an independent voice that speaks on their behalf, and that this should be maintained at all costs moving forward in order to assure athlete safety and the equitable treatment to which they are entitled.” – Shenea Booth

    “As the Athlete Task Force, we have the opportunity and responsibility to help bring input and feedback in the best interest of our athletes and to help ensure their needs are met. Every decision and project will provide the potential to strengthen and support our current athletes, both those who continue to represent our country with such grace and integrity despite the challenges we've faced and those who participate at every level, from recreation through Junior Olympics.” – Ivana Hong

    “I want to contribute to changes and initiatives within USA Gymnastics that make gymnastics a positive force in the lives of other young athletes. I gained so much from my time as an athlete, and I believe that with an increased focus on health, safety and a positive culture, USA Gymnastics can help many people find the benefits of sport I experienced and enjoyed.” – Jazzy Kerber

    “Through the Task Force, my goal is to streamline communication between the athletes and the senior staff at USA Gymnastics to make their voices be heard loud and clear during important decisions that will impact them directly. My goal from day one as a Board athlete representative is to be a strong advocate for our athletes and help them get the things they need to be safe and successful during their gymnastics careers.” – Steven Legendre

    “The need for change hit the gymnastics community hard last year, creating a powerful moment with tremendous expectations and opportunities. The potential the Athlete Task Force can bring to USA Gymnastics is exciting. We have a chance to make an impact, helping USA Gymnastics to drive a new, modern vision for the gymnastics community.” – Leigh Hennessy Robson

“The Athlete Task Force extends the opportunity for us to maximize athlete involvement in making USA Gymnastics stronger, safer and more empowered,” said Perry. “I believe the Task Force will be instrumental in keeping our focus on promoting the highest standards of care for our athletes and members, impactful educational opportunities, and a positive, safe environment for our current and future athletes to compete, thrive and achieve their gymnastics dreams.”

Based in Indianapolis, USA Gymnastics is the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States. The organization is committed to creating a culture that empowers and supports its athletes and focuses on its highest priority, the safety and well-being of the athletes. USA Gymnastics has already taken specific, concrete steps to strengthen its safe sport policies and procedures. The organization’s disciplines include men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline and tumbling, acrobatic gymnastics and gymnastics for all (formerly known as group gymnastics). For more complete information, log on to usagym.org.

Complete statements and biographies for the five Athlete Task Force members

Shenea Booth, acrobatic gymnastics
“My sole purpose in participating in the Athlete Task Force is to provide insight from a victim and survivor’s perspective. I believe the athletes deserve an independent voice that speaks on their behalf, and that this should be maintained at all costs moving forward in order to assure athlete safety and the equitable treatment to which they are entitled. Through extensive safety education, progressive policy enforcement, and expanding of athlete funding, I hope we are able to ensure the safety and well-being of all athletes for generations to come. Atoning for the past is going to be a daily journey for USA Gymnastics as a whole in its efforts to transform its mission, ethos, and commitments to the athletes, which is its duty to honorably serve.”

About Shenea: Since retiring from competitive acrobatic gymnastics, Booth has appeared on television, in Cirque du Soleil shows, and in other performances around the world. Most recently, she was featured in Cirque du Soleil’s “Varekai” and continues to perform worldwide as world-class hand-balancer Shenea Stiletto. She also has coached and choreographed routines, including for Chinese Olympic ice skaters and Team USA Olympic ice dancers. Along with her mixed-pair partner Arthur Davis, Booth was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2009 for their accomplishments in acrobatic gymnastics. Booth was inducted into the World Acrobatic Society. The duo was the first acrobatic gymnastics athletes featured on gymnastics post-Olympic tour. Davis and Booth became the first U.S. acrobatic gymnastics mixed pair world champions at the 2002 World Championships, and then became the first U.S. acro athletes to repeat as world champions when they defended their title in 2004. They also were three-time U.S. champions (2002-04) and acrobatic gymnastics’ Athletes of the Year in 2003-04. The duo was awarded the Glen Sundby Award for Outstanding Pair/Group Performance in 2003-04 and earned awards for the Most Difficult Skill in 2002 and 2004. Booth was on the national team for seven years. She was also part of the mixed pair duo that earned the silver medal at the 2001 World Games, which serves as the Olympic Games for non-Olympic disciplines. After retiring from competition in 2004, Booth and Davis performed as "Realis." They advanced to the final round of "America's Got Talent," and have made guest appearances on "Dancing with the Stars," and "So You Think You Can Dance" Australia.

Ivana Hong, women’s gymnastics
"As the Athlete Task Force, we have the opportunity and responsibility to help bring input and feedback in the best interest of our athletes and to help ensure their needs are met. Every decision and project will provide the potential to strengthen and support our current athletes, both those who continue to represent our country with such grace and integrity despite the challenges we've faced and those who participate at every level, from recreation through Junior Olympics. Furthermore, reconnecting with and establishing a viable network for our national team alumni who have dedicated an immense amount of energy and dedication to our sport is a necessary component in cultivating community and unity. Please feel free to reach out at any time as all input, suggestions, and feedback are welcome and appreciated!"

About Ivana: Hong is the women’s gymnastics athlete representative to the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors, a position she held on the Interim Board of Directors. A 2016 Stanford graduate with a degree in human biology and sociology, Hong works as a curator for Laserlike, an engineering tech startup in Mountain View, Calif., and is an instructor at Barre3 Menlo Park. As an elite gymnast, Hong claimed the 2009 U.S. balance beam title, 2009 World balance beam bronze medal, 2007 World team gold medal, and served as an alternate for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team. During her time as the team captain for Stanford University’s women’s gymnastics team, Hong was a five-time All-American, three-time Regional balance beam champion, 2015 NCAA balance beam runner-up, and 2016 AAI Award semifinalist. Hong, who resides in Menlo Park, Calif., is a member of the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

Jazzy Kerber, rhythmic gymnastics
“I am honored to join the Athlete Task Force. I was a rhythmic gymnast from age four to 18, and my sport played an instrumental role in shaping me as a person. Knowing this, I want to contribute to changes and initiatives within USA Gymnastics that make gymnastics a positive force in the lives of other young athletes. I gained so much from my time as an athlete, and I believe that with an increased focus on health, safety and a positive culture, USA Gymnastics can help many people find the benefits of sport I experienced and enjoyed.”

About Jazzy: A native of Highland Park, Ill., Jazzy Kerber will be a junior at Stanford University, majoring in international relations. Kerber was one of the USA’s top rhythmic gymnasts, achieving success on both the national and international stage before retiring in 2015. Kerber and teammate Rebecca Sereda made U.S. rhythmic gymnastics history in 2013 when they both qualified to the all-around finals at the World Championships. Kerber competed at the 2013-15 World Championships and advanced to the all-around finals two straight years. At the 2015 Pan American Games, she won the all-around, hoop, ball and ribbon silver medals and the clubs bronze. In other senior international competitions, she won a total of four gold, two silver and seven bronze medals. Kerber tied with Sereda for the senior all-around title in 2014 and took the all-around silver twice and bronze once. During her career, she also won two U.S. event titles, along with nine silver and six bronze event medals.

Steven Legendre, men’s gymnastics
“I am particularly excited to be a part of the Athlete Task Force because I feel it will allow me a great opportunity to serve our current athletes and their best interests. Through the Task Force, my goal is to streamline communication between the athletes and the senior staff at USA Gymnastics to make their voices be heard loud and clear during important decisions that will impact them directly. My goal from day one as a Board athlete representative is to be a strong advocate for our athletes and help them get the things they need to be safe and successful during their gymnastics careers. I am confident that the Athlete Task Force will work tirelessly to help make the experiences of our current and future gymnasts the greatest that they can possibly be.”

About Steven: Legendre is the head of the USA Gymnastics Athletes’ Council and serves as the men’s gymnastics representative on the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors, a position he also held on the Interim Board of Directors. A 2011 graduate from University of Oklahoma, Legendre just completed his third season as assistant coach for the Oklahoma men’s gymnastics program. He earned assistant coach of the year honors in 2016, and OU claimed their fourth-straight NCAA title in 2018. As a member of the men’s U.S. National Team, Legendre’s accolades include: 2013 World vault silver medalist; 2011 World team bronze medalist; three-time U.S. floor exercise champion (2009, 2013, 2015); 2010 U.S. vault champion; four-time World team member (2009-11, 2013); and 2012 Olympic Team alternate. Legendre, who was the recipient of the 2011 Nissen-Emery Award, captured seven NCAA titles, including the all-around title in 2009 for Oklahoma. Originally from Port Jefferson, N.Y., Legendre resides in Norman, Okla., with his wife and two daughters.

Leigh Hennessy Robson, trampoline and tumbling
“I was given great support and encouragement in my gymnastics career, and I am excited to be part of the new USA Gymnastics process to inspire and encourage today’s most talented gymnasts. It is an honor to serve as one of the Athlete Task Force’s original members. The need for change hit the gymnastics community hard last year, creating a powerful moment with tremendous expectations and opportunities. The potential the Athlete Task Force can bring to USA Gymnastics is exciting. We have a chance to make an impact, helping USA Gymnastics to drive a new, modern vision for the gymnastics community.”

About Leigh: A member of the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame, Hennessy is a movie stuntwoman, runs TrampolinePundit.com, and has provided television commentary on trampoline and tumbling. Hennessy was a two-time double mini-trampoline world champion (1976, 1978) and won a silver medal in synchronized trampoline at the 1976 World Championships. She was the first athlete, male or female, to win all three trampoline events (individual, synchronized and double mini-trampoline) at the national championships. Hennessy was honored by the International Trampoline Federation in 1982 for her contribution to the sport of trampoline. From 1978-92, she was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records with the highest double mini-trampoline score in international competition. Hennessy graduated magna cum laude from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with a bachelor's degree in speech and audiology in 1980 and earned her master's degree with honors in communications two years later. After retiring from athletics, she became a Hollywood stunt performer and has appeared in more than 100 movies and TV shows, most notably as Demi Moore’s stunt double in “G.I. Jane” and as the “drowning woman” in “The Guardian” with Kevin Costner. She has also co-authored two non-fiction books: “The Day of the Cajundome Mega-Shelter” with Jefferson Hennessy and Mark Robson, and “Don’t Get Stuck on Stupid” with Gen. Russel L. Honore and Mark Robson. She lives in Lafayette, La., and is assisting the local trampoline and tumbling community.