President moving to AEG
INDIANAPOLIS -- USA Gymnastics president Bob Colarossi traveled from his home outside San Francisco to the federation's headquarters here every week for the past four years, determined to rebuild an organization that had fallen into disarray.
After the haul of medals U.S. gymnasts collected at the Athens Olympics, Colarossi decided it was time to end his commute.
Colarossi announced Wednesday that he's leaving USS Gymnastics in March to work for AEG, a sports and entertainment group. He'll continue to serve on the International Gymnastics Federation's executive committee, and also will remain on USS Gymnastics' executive committee.
"The last four years, I've been commuting 2,000 miles a week. As much as I love USS Gymnastics, my family has to come first," he said. "I just can't keep commuting like that. I don't think it's in the best interest for me personally and, in the long run, for USS Gymnastics."
Colarossi leaves the federation in its best shape in decades. Membership and sponsorship are at all-time highs, and the Americans have re-established themselves as international powerhouses.
Since 2001, U.S. gymnasts have won 56 medals at the world championships, Olympics and Pan American games. U.S. gymnasts won nine medals at the Athens Olympics, including all-around golds by Paul Hamm and Carly Patterson and silvers by both teams. Hamm also is the reigning world champion.
"Whoever comes in will be poised to come in and take it to the next level. And there is a next level," Colarossi said. "We can do more than we did in Athens, I know we can. That's really just the beginning of it."
USS Gymnastics was in shambles when Colarossi arrived in 1998. The women had taken a step backward after winning the gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics, finishing last in the medal round at the 1998 and 1999 world championships. The men were an afterthought internationally.
Colarossi established a semi-centralized training plan for both the men and the women. Athletes were still able to live at home, but regular national team training camps gave them the benefits that Soviet-bloc countries had enjoyed for years. There were established skill standards that everyone had to be met and conditioning programs to be followed.
"I'd say it's the way we all got together after the Sydney Olympics and decided we wanted to do something that was big and make a difference. We did that," Colarossi said when asked what he's most proud of during his tenure. "Everyone gave up their personal interests and personal agendas. That's what it takes to have the kind of success we had the last four years."
USS Gymnastics is searching for a successor to Colarossi. He'll continue to be involved with the federation after he leaves, he just won't be earning as many frequent-flier miles doing it.
"I care a lot about the people and I want to continue to contribute as I have in the past," he said. "We had a great run, and USS Gymnastics is set up for a really great future."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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