Chelle Stack made the move to train with Bela & Marta Karolyi at the young age of 9 in hopes of making it to the Olympics one day.
In 1988, Chelle made it into the gymnastics spotlight when she won the bronze medal in the all-around, vault, and beam at the American Cup. She then made the Olympic Team that represented the US in Seoul, Korea. In Seoul, she helped her team place 4th behind the former greats; the Soviet Union, Romania, and East Germany.
After the ’88 Olympics Chelle successfully competed on the international scene. Chelle represented the US at the ’89 World Championships helping her team place fourth. Then in 1991, Chelle helped the US team win the gold medal at the Pan Am Games and she also placed first on floor and placed second in the all-around.
Shortly after all this success Chelle retired in 1991.
After her retirement Chelle performed with the Cirque du Soleil show at Walt Disney World, was a 2011 inductee into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame, and now has found herself judging on the international scene as a Brevet Judge and working with the up and coming athletes of USA Gymnastics at the National Training Center.
Q: What was it like being trained by Bela & Marta Karolyi?
A: There are many different things to be said about training with Martha and Bela. I think one of the most important things is that they prepared us for competition. Everyday in our daily training we were training to compete with confidence. I don’t ever remember going into a competition ever having anxiety or nerves. I always knew that I was prepared to compete and do my best. Yes, I made mistakes but they were never because I was not prepared. Training was hard, but we had very large goals. You cant expect to make an Olympic team and barely train. But even though workout was hard, my teammates and I always had fun with it somehow. We made jokes and little things that made it memorable other than just the results that we gained.
And of course, training with Martha and Bela brought a tiny bit of spotlight.
Q: What were some of your emotions regarding being away from home at such a young age while training at the Karolyi Ranch?
A: When I was 9 my whole family actually moved to Houston for me to train. At that time I did not actually know it was for my gymnastics career but it was. I trained with Gizi (Oltean) and Rick (Newman) as a Class 3 and Class 1 gymnast then went Elite in 1987. So for most of the time I lived at home. Martha and Bela had a gym in Spring, Texas. We only did conditioning at the ranch when I was an Elite. I believe it was only a few days at a time or on the weekends in the beginning. There was no gym yet.
I think after ’88 when I returned for my year at SCATS, we trained at the ranch during the week in the summers. We would drive out for Monday practice and go home after Saturday practice. At that time, 16 or 17 years old, it was a great experience. We had already stared traveling around the world and this was just another step in responsibility. We stayed with our friends in the house together. We were very independent young athletes and women.
Q: Can you tell us about the emotions you felt when you found out you made the 1988 Olympic team?
A: Its interesting because of course I was extremely excited and proud to make an Olympic team. It was a goal and I had accomplished it.
Q: You competed for the University of Oklahoma for a while, what did you like about collegiate gymnastics as compared to competing as an Elite gymnast?
A: Unfortunately, my college career was not the best. I went in as an illegal recruit and with Becky Buick we sued the NCAA to have the rules of what makes an athlete a “professional” redefined. So by the time it was over I was already finished with my freshman year and had not stepped foot in a gym (NCAA rules). I was granted two years of eligibility and 3 years of scholarship. So by the time I was actually back in shape, my 2 years were done. I did manage a few BIG 8 titles on Bars and maybe floor. But nothing spectacular. I think it was very disappointing for my coaches and team.
Q: When you retired from competitive gymnastics, you joined Cirque de Solei. What drew you to Cirque?
A: Funny, I recently had a conversation with Martha, we were discussing the past. She said I was a good dancer that could entertain the crowd. I think I grew to be a great dancer later in life, but I LOVED to perform. I was drawn to a crowd. I loved to show off and dance. Cirque was perfect for me. I always wanted to dance and Cirque was the best way to bring out everything that I loved. It was a passion that I had and I was able to entertain and create.
Q: What show did you perform in and what did you do in the show?
A: I performed for La Nouba at Downtown Disney in Orlando. I was part of the creation of the show. I was in the house troop, did the Powertrack and trampoline number, and the finale of the show. So I got to dance and tumble every night. Perfect.
Q: How did you get involved in judging and how long have you been a Brevet Judge?
A: I took my first Brevet judging test in 1996. And judged until I joined Cirque in 1998. Then let it go not knowing I would leave Cirque. I tested again in 2005 and received my international Brevet. I really don’t know what drew me to judging. It just seemed like something I was meant to be apart of. I love being able to continue in the sport and educate coaches and athletes on to how to achieve their goals. Having an athletes point of view when judging is so helpful, it is something that is natural and inside me. Its just another form of my passion, it just is executed in a different way.
Q: What have been some of your highlights, memorable moments as a Judge?
A: Well being a part of USAG is a very rewarding part in itself. Working side by side great judges and coaches helping the US succeed is always memorable. As a judge we aren’t in the spotlight but we are a part of the system that makes it happen. We help educate the coaches on all the details which makes all my efforts the most rewarding. And it has been nice to travel the world again without the stress of competing. But being able to offer advice as a judge and a former athlete is very rewarding.
Q: What are your goals as a Judge?
A: I would love to judge Worlds or the Olympics one day. It will just take time.
Q: Tell us about your role working at the US Women’s Development Camps.
A: At the developmental camps we are working to continue to develop the young athletes from the TOPS level to the developmental team and then up to the National Team. We are there to educate the young coaches how to develop an elite athlete and help guide them in their goals. I normally judge the verifications to provide start values and deductions and also work on beam dance and on floor tumbling.
Q: With the new crop of young gymnasts making their way up the ranks, how does the future of USA Gymnastics look?
A: It is so exciting to be a part of the developmental program. To see the gymnasts progress from month to month and simply show how incredibly talented they are at every camp. The future is going to be full of amazingly talented athletes that will be showing exquisite gymnastics with extraordinary skill level. It is going to be great!
Q: On a side note, you have choreographed some great floor routines over the past few years. Are you still doing any choreography and if so, how can people contact you for choreography work?
A: Thank you for the compliment. I am still doing choreography, but on a very limited schedule. It has to fit in perfect with my busy calendar and my young family. I’m focusing a lot on Elite development and TOPS Camps and clinics. I’m now hosting my own camps 3-4 times a year in Orlando. Its been a blast and I have had alot of success.
Sources: usagym.org, gymn.ca, YouTube