Liang Chow’s gymnasts are coming home with some hardware.
Norah Flatley was third in the junior all-around at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships on Saturday, and her two teammates also finished in the top eight. Flatley, Alexis Vasquez and Victoria Nguyen each won an individual event medal, too.
“It was a good day for the Chow family,” Chow said, beaming.
It usually is.
Like Karolyi’s and WOGA before him, Chow has the makings of a U.S. gymnastics dynasty at his gym in West Des Moines. His gymnasts have won three gold medals at the last two Olympics, including Gabby Douglas’ all-around title, and several of the “Baby Chows” are sure to be in the mix for Rio.
Vasquez will move up to seniors next year, joining teammate Rachel Gowey, who had to withdraw after breaking her ankle on a beam dismount during training Wednesday. Flatley has one more year as a junior, but she’ll be eligible for Rio.
Nguyen doesn’t turn 16 until Jan. 21, 2016, missing the cutoff for the Olympics by three weeks.
“I’m looking forward for the next chapter for these young ladies,” Chow said. “I see lots of room for them to develop, and I see lots of potential for these kids.”
The structure of the national team program means young gymnasts no longer have to leave home in order to have a shot at the Olympics or world championships. There are monthly training camps at Martha Karolyi’s ranch outside Houston, and Karolyi gives the personal coaches feedback and advice on training their athletes.
Like anything, however, kids want to go where the medals are. But Chow is not simply the latest flavor of the month.
“I think he has a very strong technical knowledge. That’s No. 1, which is extremely important,” Karolyi said earlier this month. “Besides that, he has a very calm nature and works well with people. Even though he’s very calm, he is very demanding. You’re not just doing things, you have to do the things at your best every day. He expects that, and that pays off.”
All you have to do is look at standings. Or listen to the “clink, clink, clink” of medals as Chow’s gymnasts walk off the floor after a meet.
In addition to her all-around bronze, Flatley won a silver on uneven bars and just missed a medal on balance beam, finishing fourth after a fall. Vasquez won balance beam, while Nguyen tied for third on floor exercise.
“I’m very proud because these kids are working very hard. They did not get here automatically,” Chow said.
Chow said the fundamentals — conditioning and flexibility — will be a priority for all three in the coming months. And as the all-important Olympic season gets closer, Flatley and Vasquez are sure to add even bigger skills to their routines so they can be factors for Rio.
“It’s going to be crazy. You see that my bumps are out,” Chow continued, holding out his arm. “It will be exciting. I think we’ve got for Team USA a good group of young talents coming up.”