Suffolk never lost Hope in Spivey

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Hope Spivey stands all of 4’10&uot; and weighs less than 100 pounds. But to the thousands of people around the globe who have seen the former Lady Suffolkian work her magic on the floor, vault, balance beam, uneven bars and other apparatuses for the past two decades, she’s truly a &uot;Gymnastics Giantess.&uot;

Born in 1971, Spivey had moved to the rank of Level Nine before she was a teenager. Spied by gymnastics scout Ken Miller, Spivey headed to Allentown, Penn. for a tryout at the nationally acclaimed Parkettes gymnastics training group. Since its inception in the late 1960s, the program has grown to one of the most well renowned factions in the history of American gymnastics. Over 100,000 people have competed in Parkette-based programs in their careers, and over 1,000 youths still participate in programs at the Parkette National Training Center each week.

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In 1985, Spivey took home a bronze medal at the U.S. National Championships, and two more at the U.S. Classic. She finished fourth at both the National Sports Festival and the American Classic.

The next year, gymnastics fans around the world got a good glimpse at the American legend in the making. She finished 10th at the Chunichi Cup in Nagoya, Japan, and won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Invitational. Over in Moscow, she finished 16th at the Goodwill Games, and won a bronze in the uneven bars and a gold in floor exercises at the National Criterium Tournament in Paris.

Spivey’s team set a new record at the 1987 Pan American Games, and won a World Championship in West Germany. She won a silver medal at the U.S. Classic. In 1988, however, she realized the dream of every youngster who has ever taken a few cautious steps onto a balance beam.

After finishing third at the yearly Nationals, Spivey was chosen to compete on the U.S. Olympic team for the Seoul, South Korea Olympics, turning her into one of the all-time sports heroes from Suffolk. Utilizing a routine known for its difficulty (unlike the traditional twists and backflips, Spivey performed several double backflips and double layouts), the young woman helped her team to a fourth-place finish against the world’s greatest.

After the Olympics, Spivey took a break from gymnastics to finish high school. She soon became one of the nation’s most highly-recruited athletes of 1990, and signed with the University of Georgia.

Spivey became the second gymnast in school history (and fifth in collegiate history) to post a perfect 10, scoring the high mark on the floor exercise. At the time, no one could have guessed how many times that achievement would be repeated.

Buidling on the accomplishment, she soon became only the second college gymnast ever to score a second 10, and won the vault, floor, and all around NCAA national titles in 1991, making her the first freshman to win the all-around title and be named an All-American in all four gymnastics events. She set a school record by scoring a 9.9 on the vault, and tied the UGA balance beam record with a 9.95.

Before her college career ended, Spivey had helped the Lady Bulldogs to a NCAA national title, and won five individual national titles of her own. She was an 11-time All-American, and racked up a national record 27 perfect scores (fittingly, she scored a 10 in the floor exercises in her final competitive event). In 1996, she carried the Olympic torch through Athens, Ga. on its way to the Centinnial Park for the Atlanta games.

Following her retirement, Spivey opened up Spivey’s Gymnastics and Tumbling International in Winder, Ga. ( &uot;I will continue my business, keep on training and stay in shape,&uot; she says on the organization’s Web site. &uot;You never know – I might make history again!&uot;

On April 24th of next year, she will; Spivey will be part of the latest induction class to the Virginia Hall of Fame in Portsmouth. Along with a group that includes local golf legend Curtis Strange and former NBA star Dell Curry, Spivey will be enshrined in her second state Hall of Fame (the Georgia establishment made her a member in 1995).