Gymnast hopes to compete in London

Charlie Tamayo

When Charlie Tamayo raised his right hand and spoke the oath of American citizenship, he removed one of the last non-athletic obstacles to representing the United States in the 2012 Olympic Games in London this summer.

“Now that I’m a U.S. citizen, there’s nothing to stop me,” Tamayo said in an interview with The Daily Sentinel.

Tamayo’s saga began in 2003, when the reigning gold-medal winner at the World Cup walked out of a bar in an Anaheim, Calif., hotel where he was staying with the Cuban national gymnastics team, and away from his teammates, family and home. His trail led him eventually to the Grand Valley, where he trained and coached in 2008 before returning to California.

Now he and his wife, Nicole Tamoush, a gymnast herself, are the parents of twins — 7-month-olds Maryanne Rose and Anthony Leon — and Tamayo is splitting his time between California and Florida, where he is training to join the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team.

He still must be cleared by an international gymnastics organization to compete, a process that could be quick or drawn out, said Dennis McIntyre, men’s program director for USA Gymnastics.

Once cleared, Tamayo will fall into the selection procedure along with all of the other aspirants to the American team, McIntyre said.

“He’s not competed in a long time, so we’re all very anxious to see him,” McIntyre said. “He’s a very talented athlete and one who has competed with distinction in the past.”

Tamayo, now 31, has a patented skill, the eponymous “tamayo,” in which the gymnast performs a round-off back hand-spring, followed by a half-turn in the air and two flips with a fully extended body.

To be sure, McIntyre said, Tamayo has remarkable skill, “but some of these other athletes have skills named after them as well.”

Tamayo remains upbeat.

Making the team is “not something that’s up to me,” he said. “There is a whole bunch of things that have to happen when it comes to making the team. I need to focus on doing the best I can do. The rest is up to my coaches. All I can do is train as hard as I can to earn my spot there.”

For Grand Junction lawyer Luke Brennan, who guided Tamayo much of the way on his trip to citizenship, the completion of that leg of the journey is a triumph in itself.

“This is the American dream,” Brennan said. “He did it the right way,” going through the system, even though it was frequently frustrating.

“Now he’s one of us,” Brennan said, “and we’re better for it.”

Tamayo dismisses his age as barrier, pointing to a 38-year-old Bulgarian and “a German girl, she’s 34 or 35, and she’s still on it.”

However his quest turns out, Tamayo said, everything has been worthwhile.

“I’m thrilled by the opportunity to come back and that I have the opportunity to represent my country,” he said. “This is my chance.”


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