Hope Spivey watched the 1976 Summer Olympic Games on her television in Suffolk. The 5-year-old was entranced by the twists and turns of the gymnastics event. Turning to her mother, Spivey confidently said, “One day, I’m going to do that.”
Spivey stayed true to her word, competing with Team USA in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. She also was a standout college gymnast, winning four individual NCAA titles with the University of Georgia.
Now, after living in Georgia for the better part of two decades, Spivey is returning to her home state, but this time, as a coach.
Not only will she run Spivey’s Gymnastics in Dulles, but Spivey will also be joining the staff of John Champe High School in Aldie as the school’s inaugural gymnastics coach.
“I’m very excited to help get the athletic program started,” Spivey said. “We can get this program off the ground floor and turn it into something special.”
Spivey is no stranger to hard work. In 1976, she began training at local recreation centers and YMCAs. Her talent wouldn’t go unnoticed and twice she was invited to camps for exceptional gymnasts in Allentown, Pa.
At age 13, Spivey moved away from her parents and in with another family to train in Allentown, Penn., full-time at Parkettes, an elite gymnastics training facility.
But Spivey and her parents missed being close, so a year later, Spivey’s mother moved to Allentown to be with her daughter while she trained.
The training paid off. While in high school, Spivey competed with the U.S. Senior National team. She won a bronze medal in all-around at the 1985 U.S. National Championships, and was part of a gold-medal winning squad at the Pan-American Games in 1987.
In 1988, Spivey fulfilled her assertion to her mother as a little girl, competing in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Team USA finished fourth.
“Some days it’s still hard to believe,” Spivey said of the Olympics. “It’s an experience that will carry you for a lifetime. It’s a tremendous honor to be able to say that I was in that class of athletes.”
After the Olympics, Spivey set her sights on college. She was offered a full scholarship to Georgia, where she became one of the most prolific gymnasts in NCAA history. As a freshman in 1991, she won the NCAA All-Around title, in addition to winning the vault and floor exercise titles. In 1993, her junior year, the UGA Gym Dogs posted a 32-0 record en route to winning the NCAA team title. She won her final NCAA crown as a senior in the floor exercise with a score of 9.95, at the time, an NCAA record.
All in all, Spivey won five NCAA titles and four SEC titles, was a 12-time All-American and was awarded a perfect 10 score 27 times during her collegiate career. To top it off, Spivey also became the first in her family to graduate college in 1994.
Spivey turned her attention to coaching in 1998, when she opened up Spivey’s Gymnastics and Tumbling International in Winder, Ga.
“It had its ups and downs,” Spivey said, noting that the economic downturn adversely affected business.
Spivey found out about the opening at Champe from her brother, who lives in Northern Virginia. She became excited at the prospect of growing gymnastics in the area. Spivey accepted the offer at Champe and opened up a new Spivey’s Gymnastics in Dulles and then relocated in June, ready to start a new chapter in her life.
“One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is pick up everything, at 41-years-old – with a 7-year-old, and start over,” Spivey said.
Several gymnasts joined the gym as soon as Spivey relocated, and the gym held an open house July 21. Now, Spivey is anxiously waiting for the high school season to begin.
“I have not coached high school and it’s going to be a challenge,” Spivey said. “It’s exciting and somewhat nerve-wracking because there are a lot of unknowns.”
Despite these unknowns, Spivey is optimistic and ready to face the challenges head-on.
And who could expect anything less from the woman who, at five-years-old, predicted her own Olympic appearance?
-All photos by Jonathan Taylor