2007 World Gymnaestrada -A Dream Becomes a Reality
posted on 12/15/2007
© USA Gymnastics

The 2007 World Gymnaestrada was held in Dornbirn, Austria, July 5 – 14. A delegation of 16 represented Go For It USA at the prestigious international gymnastics event. GFI was chosen to represent the United States in the FÉDÉRATION INTERNATIONALE DE GYMNASTIQUE (FIG) Gala Performance. You can find more pictures at www.fedintgym.com/zenphoto/index.php.

The initial dream, regarding this amazing journey began in Goteburg, Sweden in July of 1999 at the World Gymnaestrada. That was the first that Don Spencer (along with wife, Sharon, and children, Jessica and Josh) had ever attended. During that event, Spencer met with USA Gymnastics Delegation Leader, Steve Whitlock, about putting a group together, from Go For It, to be in the premier performance of the week long gymnastics celebration (held every four years, just like the Olympics). That performance is called the FIG Gala. The two hour show, featuring the best of the best from all over the world, is performed at the end of the week just prior to the closing ceremonies. It was at that time that the journey began.

At the next World Gymnaestrada, held in Lisbon, Portugal in 2003, Coach Julie Jay and gymnast Britney Ackley joined the Spencer family. The Go For It delegation participated in the English Speaking National Evening. Jessica and Josh were a featured act (involving silks hanging from the ceiling) in the show. Spencer and Whitlock met again and discussed the next steps to achieve the goal to be in the Gala.

As part of the master plan; two years ago, Spencer (along with assistance from lead Choreographer, Julie Jay) put together a demo DVD and submitted it to the FIG Gala Organizing Committee. After initially being turned down, the committee not only reversed their decision, but informed Spencer that they not only wanted Go For It to be in the FIG Gala, but the act was so good that they wanted to use it for the finale! “By the time this information was known, most of the original participants, who had committed to going, had decided not to attend since we had initially been turned down for the Gala spot.” said Spencer. Therefore, it was back to the drawing board to recruit participants. By the time Go For It showed up in Austria, there were 12 people in the act and 4 played supporting roles, for a total of 16. The age range was 7 to 46 and experience level was from complete rookie to professional acrobat. “That range was what contributed to the challenges (and the amazing rewards) with this special act.” commented Jay.

The group rehearsed for six months straight at least two nights per week. In June they performed a dress rehearsal in the gym for our local people to get to see what the act looked like. The Go For The Gold Booster Club raised over $1,500 with special fundraisers to support the effort.

The 2007 World Gymnaestrada in Dornbirn, Austria started with the opening ceremonies. All 16 Go For It Delegation members (GFID) participated along with over 400 more from the United States in a march-in similar to the Olympic Games. During the next several days, GFID participated in early morning rehearsals, watched acts from all over the world, and attended national evenings from countries such as Italy, Switzerland, Japan, and others. Everyone managed to get in at least one day of tourist activity as well.

Friday was the “make it or break it” day for the Gala performers from 15 different countries. The day started with a mark through rehearsal. Phase two was a dress rehearsal. Normally dress rehearsals are either closed to spectators or only a small selective audience is allowed. Due to the popularity of the performance, the dress rehearsal was sold out! So, the very first run through with full dress, lights, etc. was performed in front of a live audience. The first official performance represented the third run through of the day for the crew. Finally, the premier performance was the 9 pm show. This show would be the fourth of the day for the performers, but they were all plenty motivated to peak at the right time. The President of Austria along with many other leaders of countries, and the Presidents of FIG and many national governing bodies for gymnastics were in attendance. This show was also televised live throughout Europe!

“We absolutely nailed that televised performance!” Spencer proudly stated. A Go For It tradition is to have a brief pep talk, prayer, and chant with all the athletes prior to a competition. The usual chant is “GFI Perrrrfectors”. Right before the big performance on Friday evening, Coach Spencer had asked the group what the chant should be. Coach Jay promptly suggested that it should be something related to “USA”. The chant for that special event was “USA Rocks”! Spencer said, “At the moment we did that chant; the reality hit me that, indeed we were representing our country with our performance in addition to our club. It was a very special experience for me that will be with me always.”

The next day, Saturday, the troupe put it together one more time for the final Gala performance. They then proceeded to the closing ceremonies to conclude the week long celebration of the world of gymnastics. When Derek Yaklin (a coach at Go For It and first time performer) “It was one of the most amazing things in my life, up to now, when we performed for people from all over the world”! GFI Delegation Coordinator, Sharon Spencer, added, “This was such a significant accomplishment. We are so proud of everyone in our group. Now we can set our sites on the next World Gymnaestrada in Switzerland in 2011.”

A dream that began eight years earlier had become a reality with a group of people who accepted the challenge. Those people made the commitment to “Go For It” in the spirit of the World Gymnaestrada motto: Come together be one!