South Bay

Gymnastics Fever Sweeps South Bay for Parade, Fan Fest

Gymnastics fever continued to sweep the South Bay on Saturday, when more than 100 Olympians gathered for special events that allowed them to mingle with some of their most die-hard fans during the day and participate in a bustling parade during the evening.

Starting at 3 p.m., fans flocked to the Gymnastics City USA Fan Fest at Arena Green, where famed athletes spoke with fans and reporters alike about their aspirations to compete in the summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For the gymnasts, the fan fest also served as a day of relaxation ahead of Sunday’s final competition.

In addition to activities and giveaways, the fan fest also boasted DJs, live music, chalk art, rock climbing, sand sculptures and a giant, inflatable slide -- but the most popular attraction for youngsters appeared to be the wading pool with giant bubbles that kids could climb inside. 

Aspiring gymnasts from all over the world came out in hopes of seeing some of their idols.

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Stacey Douglas traveled from Tennessee with her 9-year-old daughter, Gabby, to see the trials and hopefully nab a few autographs.

“It’s been pretty amazing to see all the people, and really the inspiration for the girls, and just seeing what it takes to be successful,” Stacey said.

Famous Olympic athletes from past years also turned up for an evening parade at the SAP center, the largest reunion of former Olympic gymnasts ever hosted.

Mary Lue Rhetton, Nastia Lukin and Sean Johnson all made appearances.  

Past competitors were caught sharing hugs and remembering their time in the Olympic spotlight, while rising singer La'Porsha Renae wowed with a live performance of Sia's hit song "Chandelier." 

The "Magnificent Seven," the name given 1996 Olympics gymnastics team that took home the first-ever gold medal for the United States, reunited for a few pictures and laughed with one another. Shannon Miller, one of the 7, said it had been about 10 years since the women last got together, but that being in San Jose provided an opportunity to reunite with many former colleagues. 

"You can't walk down the street in San Jose without bumping into an Olympian," Miller said. "It's very cool to go two feet and have agreat conversation. We grew up together. We are family." 

Jaycie Phelps, also one of the seven, said being back with the women she shared a mat with was a rare opportunity. 

"For the seven of us to be in the same place at the same time, it's just...almost overwhelming because it doesn't happen that often anymore." 

As of Saturday, 2016's odds-on favorite Simone Biles is holding down the top spot, followed by up-and-comer Laurie Hernandez taking the second spot, Aly Raisman in third, while Mykayla Skinner, Ragen Smith, Madison Kocian, Gabby Douglas and Maggie Nichols rounded out the ranking. Only five will be lucky enough to make the team.

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