Joan Moore Gnat – Paving The Way For US Women



Not many people can say that they have won the same amount of National Championships as Simone Biles!

But Joan Moore Gnat can and she is very modest about the bragging rights.  Joan won these National Championship All-Around gold medals in ’71, ’72, ’73, and ’74.

In total, Joan won 10 gold medals in National competition over these 4 years.  When broken down, she won; 4 All-Around titles, 1 Vault title, 1 Beam title, and 4 Floor titles.

Joan Moore Gnat on Beam at the 1974 World Championships.
Photo: photobucket

During the time she competed for the USA she attend the 1970 World Championships in Yugoslavia and the 1974 World Championships in Bulgaria.

But Joan’s shinning international moment came when she represented the US at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany.

As a team, the US Women placed 4th behind the Soviet Union (1), East Germany (2), and Hungary (3).

Individually, Joan placed 21st in the All-Around with a 37.2.  She was the second highest placing US women behind Cathy Rigby who scored a 37.8.

Joan’s highest Olympic placement came on floor where she tied for 12th with a 9.5.

Also during these Olympic Games, Joan was only one of two women to compete a double twisting layout on floor in competition.  The other woman was Lyudmila Turischeva of the USSR.

Joan was also the first to compete a front handspring, front layout.

Here is a video of Joan on floor at the 1972 Olympic Games during Team Optionals:

(BTW: Try to ignore the sexist comments by the commentators.  It was a different era!)

Joan has been quoted as stating that her greatest contribution to gymnastics“ . . . has been as a gymnast. I believe the near medal in 1972 paved the way for the successes later achieved by American gymnasts. I think our finish helped younger athletes at that time realize that we could win medals in gymnastics. What you believe, you can achieve.” 

GBC: At what age did you start gymnastics?

JOAN: I started tumbling at age 6 and gymnastics events at 8.

GBC: Where did you train?

JOAN: I trained in Philadelphia under coaches Bill and Ginny Coco at the Mannettes Gymnastic Club.

Joan Moore Gnat
Photo: Gymn Forum

GBC: When did you realize that you were good enough to make an Olympic Team?

JOAN: I made the 1970 World Team and that was when I started thinking about the Olympics as a real possibility.

GBC: Tell us about your Olympic experience.

JOAN: It is difficult to put words to such an amazing experience. Every day was a new experience while in Munich. I was sad that we did not get to march in the opening ceremonies, but we had competition the following day.

GBC: Looking back at what it took for you to make the Olympic Team and seeing what our athletes go through today, what similarities and/or differences do you see?

JOAN: The similarities are that it takes hard work, strength and flexibility. The difference is the number of training hours and the emphasis that is put on difficult skills vs grace.

GBC: Tell us about past positions you held within USA Gymnastics.

JOAN: I served on USA Gymnastics Board of Directors as Vice Chair for the women’s program for 10 years. Prior to that, I was the Regional Junior Olympic Chair in Region 4.

GBC: When did you become a Brevet Judge and what meets have you judged?

JOAN: I became a Brevet judge in 1989 and have judged the American Cup numerous times including being the Technical Director for the competition twice. I also judged the 1997 Individual World Championships as well as International competitions in France, Japan, Italy and Belgium.

GBC: You and your husband (Ray Gnat) owned your own gym, ACE Gymnastics. How & when was the decision made to open a gym?

JOAN: When we left Brown’s Gymnastics in 1994 to work at Gwinnett Gymnastics in Georgia, our former athletes from Brown’s kept asking us to come back. We also had a parent asking us to open a gym with them. So, in 1997 ACE Gymnastics opened its doors. The partnership with the parent did not work out, but we continued the program on our own.

Joan’s daughters Jeana (L) and Ashleigh (R)

GBC: Both your daughters trained under both you and your husband. Explain the experience of coaching your own children?

JOAN: It was different with each one. Just as their personalities are very different, so was the experience with each one was very different.

GBC: Your oldest daughter, Jeana Rice, was on the US Women’s National Team from ’97-’99. Did you give her any advice or pointers from your experiences being on the National Team?

JOAN: Not anything specific. We addressed training and competition strategies during practice, but she always had a very competitive spirit.

GBC: How does it feel to have both your girls be so successful in gymnastics and get scholarships to be NCAA athletes?

JOAN: We feel truly blessed that each daughter was so successful in their own right, and that both were fortunate enough to be relatively injury free, and be successful as students as well.

GBC: Looking back on all your years in gymnastics, is there anything that you would have done differently?

JOAN: No, I don’t think so. I consider myself to be very blessed to have achieved so many of my personal goals and to be able to use that to help other gymnasts.

GBC: Now that you have retired from coaching, what does the future hold for you?

JOAN: A little more free time to enjoy leisure activities and travel.

GBC: One last question; knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self as you entered your peek gymnastics years?

JOAN: Never take anything for granted. If Joan loses her focus on the current competition by looking at past successes, she could fall off the beam!



3 thoughts on “Joan Moore Gnat – Paving The Way For US Women

  1. Louann Dugas says:

    I’m lucky to have gotten to know Joan through judging in Region 8 and now as an avid LSU gymnastics fan. She’s a wonderful person. The gymnastics world is lucky to have her!

    • Vinnie Silber says:

      I whole heartedly agree! I got to know her while judging in FL and also working with her on the NAWGJ-FL board. I very sincere and kind hearted friend, mom, wife, and coach.

  2. Val Hammond says:

    Joan is lovely inside and out…she is one of the finest and most qualified Brevet Judges we have…not in any small part because she competed at the highest level, had daughters who rocked their respective NCAA programs…has been chosen to judge meets with international gymnasts, and helped own, coach and operate one of the premier gyms in Region Eight. I have had the pleasure of judging with Joan on several occasions and it was both enlightening and enjoyable. Joan my friends – is simply amazing!!!

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