By Dwight Normille
Posted with permission from International Gymnast Magazine
For more information on the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, click here.
Five individuals were honored at the 2010 International Gymnastics Hall of Fame Dinner, a ceremony that took place Oklahoma City on May 15. Inducted this year were Cathy Rigby (USA), Henrietta Onodi (Hungary), Yuri Korolev (Russia) and the late Mikhail Voronin (Russia). Photographer Eileen Langsley (Great Britian) received the AAI International Order of Merit.
Langsley, who diligently photographed every FIG member federation from 1984-2001, spoke of her accidental beginnings as a photographer, snapping images to help the students she coached. The camera eventually became the vehicle through which she captured and promoted the sport of gymnastics in all of its beauty. Langsley humbly spread the honor she received among all photographers, and gave special thanks to her husband, Gerry.
"Without his love and support of 40 years, I couldn’t possibly have achieved all that I have done," she said.
Henrietta Onodi was the first inductee of the evening, and she apologized for being a gymnast and not a speaker. Then she gave a superb account of her life as a "B group" gymnast who rose to the top through the belief of her coaches and parents.
"I always felt like the people who supported me should be up here," said Onodi, who won gold medals on vault at the 1992 World Championship and 1992 Olympics.
After a brief retirement, Onodi came back for the 1996 Olympics, where she was a pivotal member of the Hungarian team at age 22.
I never did gymnastics for the awards," said Onodi. "I enjoyed what I was doing."
Last-minute visa complications prevented Korolev, world all-around champion in 1981 and 1985, from attending this year’s event, but Rigby closed the evening in fitting style. The first U.S. woman to medal in a world championships (balance beam, 1970), Rigby echoed Onodi’s sentiments about giving credit to those who helped her.
"It’s very difficult to stand up here and talk about all the people who touched your life," she said.
Rigby named three individuals, however, who made a tremendous impact on her life as a gymnast: Frank Bare, the first executive director of the U.S. Gymnastics Federation; Bud Marquette, her long-time coach; and her mother.
Each honoree was visibly moved by the occasion, as were the lucky guests who were able to gain a glimpse of gymnastics history. The Hall of Fame now has 72 gymnasts or coaches representing 20 nations, and will continue to grow with each annual celebration.
"Excellence to us is inspiring, and that’s all we try to capture on this night," said emcee Bart Conner.
The emotion, of course, is extra.