Veda Vargas is an aspiring gymnast, so the third grader at Rosy Mound Elementary School was thrilled to see her idol, Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber, at her school on Wednesday.
“I was excited to see her because she’s my favorite gymnast,” Vargas said.
Wieber is thrilled that she’s risen from her humble roots to where she is now — a positive role model for young girls across the country.
“It’s amazing that I can be a role model for so many little girls,” Wieber said. “This is amazing. I love traveling around the state of Michigan, which has given me the most support in my gymnastics career. I love being able to come talk to these kids.”
Wieber was brought to Rosy Mound Elementary School through the joint efforts of the school’s Parent-Teacher Association and corporate sponsor Mercantile Bank.
Wieber spent Wednesday morning at Rosy Mound, sharing her inspiring story with the students there.
Wieber showed off the gold medal she won during the 2012 Summer Olympics as a member of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team.
Students were then given the opportunity to read Wieber questions, and they asked everything from how many hours she practiced gymnastics, her favorite event, and her favorite memories from the Olympics.
“They’re doing a great job with the questions,” said Wieber, 17, a senior at DeWitt High School near Lansing. “They were really well prepared, asking some really cool things. I like it when they ask me about the things outside of gymnastics.”
Prior to the Olympics, Wieber was spending six days a week in the gym, working out more than 30 hours a week.
Now that the Olympics are behind her, Wieber is enjoying acting like a normal teenager.
“I’m graduating in about a month, and it’s been great, just the chance to be a normal high school student,” she said. “It wasn’t easy, especially before the Olympics, when I was so busy traveling to competitions. Luckily, my school has been so great, helping me keep up with my work, adjusting my schedule around gymnastics.”
Wieber said the highlights of her gymnastics career have been qualifying for the Olympic games, then standing on the podium to receive her gold medal.
Winning the gold as part of the team competition helped ease the pain from missing out on the all-around final.
“I look back on the Olympics as an amazing experience, having the chance to represent the USA,” she said. “Sharing that experience with my teammates was incredible, and it gives me the chance to come talk to kids about overcoming obstacles. That means a lot to me.”
Fortunately, Wieber hasn’t had too many obstacles to overcome. Her parents realized at a young age that she had a stocky, yet powerful build — ideal for a gymnast — and she began training at the age of 4.
It didn’t take long for her career to take off. She began competing when she was seven in events around Michigan. By the time she was 10, Wieber was traveling across the country.
Wieber helped Team USA win the gold medal in the 2011 World Championships, and also won an individual gold medal in the all-around competition.
That accomplishment landed her on the cover of a Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.
A year later, she was helping the U.S. win gold in London.
“Just making the Olympics, we all burst out in tears, we were so happy all our dreams paid off,” Wieber said. “When I got my gold medal, I remember standing there as the national anthem played and being overwhelmed. I worked really hard for it, so it was very special.”
Wieber told the children at Rosy Mound how difficult it was to balance training for the Olympics with being a normal kid with regular responsibilities.
“I was in the gym six days a week, so on Sundays, I had to do homework all day,” she said. “That was just one of the many sacrifices I made.”
Wieber showed off her gold medal on Wednesday, admitting that she doesn’t often take it out of its “hiding place” at her home.
Will she have a chance to claim another gold in 2016?
“The 2016 Olympics area always in the back of my mind,” she said. “I’m definitely not done with gymnastics. I’m hoping to compete again in the near future. It just all depends on how things go, if you can stay healthy.”