Carly Patterson sees ‘ton’ of Olympic gold for U.S. gymnasts

Olympic gymnast and singer Carly Patterson was the honorary starter at the Firestone 600 IndyCar Series race at the Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday.
Olympic gymnast and singer Carly Patterson was the honorary starter at the Firestone 600 IndyCar Series race at the Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday. rmallison@star-telegram.com

The Zika virus scare is going to keep Carly Patterson from making a trip with USA Gymnastics to the Olympic Games this summer in Rio de Janeiro.

The 2004 gold medalist and Allen resident is trying to start a family with her husband, Mark, and the risks are too great. The Zika virus can cause fetal death and severe brain defects in the children of women infected during pregnancy.

Patterson had fewer fears of being the honorary starter and waving the green flag to start Saturday’s Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Patterson recalled doing the same thing a few years back, chuckling at the thought: “I had to climb up a big ladder and I just remember that being really scary. That’s what I’m doing again tonight, right?”

Patterson had also been scheduled for a ride-along in an IndyCar, but afternoon rain canceled the ride.

But Patterson talked about the upcoming Olympic Games and gymnasts that North Texans should be watching in the coming months.

How tough was the decision to skip the Olympics because of the Zika virus? I’m definitely in a different spot in life, and I was supposed to go to Rio and be an ambassador for our sport and go with USA Gymnastics. A few months back I did have to make that decision with my husband. We’re in that part in our lives where we’re going to start a family and kind of that exact demographic where they’re saying don’t go. That’s a danger to us ... [We] took that very seriously and decided that, you know what, family and our health and moving forward with what we want to do in life now is more important. I’ll look forward to the next four years and going to Tokyo [for the 2020 Games].

Does it feel like it’s been 12 years, and what do you remember about your Olympic moments? It’s starting to feel like 12 years. I kind of can’t believe it. It just seems like it’s flown by. It used to seem like just yesterday and now it’s starting to feel like a little further and further out as it goes along. But, gosh, I still remember every detail pretty much. I still remember most things about being there and just that feeling of it being so surreal and so exciting. Not even believing that I was there and getting to represent our country. Just getting to compete for our team and making my dreams come true, so it’s really cool that it still brings those same butterflies and still brings that same excitement every four years when I get to watch. It just brings that pride and joy back.

Does it ever get old being introduced as “Gold medalist Carly Patterson”? That factor, the coolness factor on that, never goes away for me. That’s something I’ll have forever, cherish forever and it’s not like you’re ever a former Olympian or former gold medalist. You’re always an Olympian, you’re always a gold medalist, so that’s really cool to have that title to my name. Definitely something that I’m very proud of and also just the fact that I had that opportunity to represent my country and honor my country in that way is one of the coolest things as well.

What do you do with a gold medal? I take it places if I’m requested to. If I don’t get asked to take it, then I just leave it in our safe at home. I don’t get to see it very often. So when I do take it places, I definitely kind of stare at it for a minute and I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, I did that. That’s really cool.’ 

How do you feel about USA Gymnastics going into this Olympics? We’re going to have an amazing group of girls in the gymnastics world going. I think we’re going to see a ton of gold medals coming home. I think we’re going to see another team gold, more individual golds, so it’s going to be exciting.

Anyone in particular to watch? Simone Biles is like the best gymnast ever. She’s the best gymnast in the world and probably ever in the sport. Aly Raisman from the 2012 gold medal team is trying to make the team again. We’ve got a couple local girls, Alyssa Baumann [from Plano] and Madison Kocian [from Dallas], who are trying to make the team. Hopefully they’ll have a good shot.

Finally, what are you up to these days? I get to work with our sport as an ambassador for USA Gymnastics. I do motivational speaking full time, as well as coach summer gymnastics camps. I do a lot of things to keep busy, you know, just a little bit of everything.

Drew Davison: 817-390-7760, @drewdavison