INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., May 9, 2007 – USA Gymnastics today announced the 2007 class of inductees for the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame: Olympians Kevin Davis of Tyrone, Ga., Dr. Gene Whelan of West Richland, Wash., and Valerie Zimring-Schneiderman of Ridgefield, Conn.; men’s artistic coach Sadao Hamada of Stanford, Calif.; rhythmic coach Irina Vdovets of Chicago; two-time double mini-trampoline team world champion Karl Heger of Rockford, Ill.; and two-time double mini-trampoline world champion Leigh Hennessy of Van Nuys, Calif. Dr. Joseph C. Schabacker is the 2007 Lifetime Achievement recipient in recognition of his contributions to acrobatic gymnastics.

“Congratulations to the members of the 2007 class who have helped gymnastics become the sport it is today,” said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. “We are proud to recognize their efforts through induction in the Hall of Fame.”
The 2007 USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame luncheon and induction ceremony are scheduled for Friday, Aug. 17, at 11 a.m. at the San Jose (Calif.) Marriott Hotel. Tickets are $40 per person. For more information, log on to
2007 USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame inductees
  • Kevin Davis, a member of the U.S. Men’s National Team from 1986-90, competed in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. At the University of Nebraska, where he was coached by Francis Allen and Jim Howard, he earned seven NCAA All-America honors and was a member of the team that won the 1988 NCAA Championships. Davis also was a member of the 1987 Pan American Games and the 1989 Word Championships teams. He won the pommel horse at the 1988 American Cup and was an all-around finalist at the 1989 World Championships. Davis graduated from Nebraska with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and is employed by Phizer Pharmaceuticals. He currently resides in Tyrone, Ga., with his wife, Elizabeth, and three daughters, Hailey, Madison and Kinsey.
  • Sadao Hamada coached the Stanford men’s gymnastics team to three NCAA championships (1992-93, 1995) in his 30 years at the university. In 1989, he was named USA Gymnastics Coach of the Year. He also earned other Coach of the Year awards multiple times, including three from the NCAA, six conference and two regional. Hamada coached Olympians Steve Hug (1972) and Jair Lynch (1992, parallel bars silver medalist in 1996), as well as nine individual NCAA champions. Hamada graduated from Japan’s Nippon College of Health and Physical Education in 1969 and earned a master’s degree from Kent State University. He currently resides in Stanford, Calif.
  • Karl Heger was a member of the U.S. Trampoline Team for 22 years and won 18 national titles. He competed in 11 World Championships, winning gold medals in double mini-trampoline in 1988 and 1999, and he also won synchronized trampoline at the 1991 World Games. He served in Operation Desert Storm, where he was awarded the Bronze Star, and he currently works for the FBI. Heger lives in Rockford, Ill., with his two sons, Kevin (17) and KJ (13). Both Kevin and KJ have competed at the World Age Group Games in trampoline and are coached by their mother, Ute Heger, who was a member of the German national trampoline team.
  • Leigh Hennessy is 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) 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 summa cum laude from the University of Southwestern Louisiana with a bachelor’s degree in speech and audiology in 1980, and earned her master’s degree with honors in communication two years later. She lives in Van Nuys, Calif., and is a movie stuntwoman and a former writer for Glenn Sundby Publications.
  • Irina Vdovets, the only two-time U.S. Olympic rhythmic gymnastics coach (1988, 1992), was the coach for Olympians Michele Berube, Jenifer Lovell and Diane Simpson-Bundy. She coached the U.S. World Championships Team four times (1985, 1987, 1989 and 1991) and was a U.S. national team coach from 1985-95. In 1986-87, Vdovets was honored as the U.S. Rhythmic Coach of the Year. Vdovets currently lives in Chicago and is the program director at Illinois Rhythmics.
  • Dr. Gene Whelan, a member of the 1976 U.S. Olympic Team, was a member of the men’s team that won the gold medal at the 1975 Pan American Games. He first competed for the University of Massachusetts and then for Penn State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1977. While at Penn State, Whelan earned All-America honors in 1974 and 1976 and won the 1976 Nissen Award. He was an international master of sport from 1974-77. He earned a master’s degree in mechanics and hydraulics from the University of Iowa in 1980 and holds a doctorate in civil and environmental engineering from Utah State University. Whelan currently resides in West Richland, Wash.
  • Valerie Zimring-Schneiderman was a rhythmic gymnast on the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team and competed on two World Championships teams (1981, 1983). A member of the U.S. Rhythmic National Team from 1979-85, she was the 1984 U.S. all-around and hoop champion and the 1978 junior all-around, rope, ball and clubs national champion. She earned a bachelor’s degree in arts from the University of California – Los Angeles in 1989 and earned her master’s degree in program-dance in 1991. Zimring-Schneiderman has worked for NBC Sports as a technical advisor during two Olympic Games (1988, 1996) and has done television commentary work. She lives in Ridgefield, Conn., with her husband, Ross, and their two teenage sons, Zach and Will.
Lifetime Achievement Award recipient
  • Dr. Joseph C. Schabacker served as president of the U.S. Sports Acrobatics Federation from 1975-93. He was a professional hand balancer for 10 years and a gymnastics judge for 24 years. He competed for Temple University from 1938-43.
The USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame inducted its first class in 1959. Based in Indianapolis, USA Gymnastics is the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States. Its mission is to encourage participation and the pursuit of excellence in the sport. Its disciplines include men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline and tumbling, and acrobatic gymnastics.