Tasha Schwikert vaults into local Hall

Tasha Schwikert logged hundreds of thousands of miles worldwide as an Olympic gymnast. But driving only a few blocks on Sunset Road on Tuesday morning, Schwikert saw her career come full circle.

The 26-year-old Las Vegas native stopped by GymCats gymnastics club before heading to Galleria at Sunset mall, where she was introduced as one of five 2011 inductees into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame.

"I stopped by to change clothes there and spend some time with Cassie," Schwikert said of longtime coach Cassie Rice. "I was 7 when I started there and it was just a little gym. Cassie would travel with me for months at a time. She gave up so much for me. She's my mentor and idol."

Schwikert credited her parents, Shannon and Joy, and Rice for enabling her to become the first gymnast enshrined in the Hall.

Joining Schwikert in the class are NFL star Steven Jackson, longtime Las Vegas baseball executive Don Logan, Lied Foundation trustee Christina Hixson and the 1944 Las Vegas High School football team.

The induction ceremony will be June 10 at Orleans Arena.

Schwikert is also the youngest inductee into the Hall, founded in 1997 to recognize Southern Nevada athletic accomplishments and contributions and to raise funds for local organizations.

It's fitting that Schwikert's age is tied to the honor.

In August, 10 years after Schwikert and her U.S. teammates finished fourth at the Sydney Games, they received the bronze medals stripped from China for using an underage athlete.

"I was in shock when I got the call. Back then I was 15 and never thought anyone would try to pull a fast one by using someone underage," Schwikert said.

"But I felt bad for the girls on that (China) team. It wasn't their fault. She was only doing what she was told."

Earlier Tuesday, the International Gymnastics Federation announced that North Korea's gymnastics team will be banned from the 2012 London Olympics for using an underage gymnast in 2007.

Schwikert supports the decision.

"When you're young, it's easier to take some pretty hard falls and (still be able to) walk away from it," she said. "It's nice to keep (gymnastics) a young woman's sport instead of a little girl's sport."

An injury when she was 20 relegated Schwikert to being an alternate on the 2004 Olympic team after she helped the Americans win bronze in 2001 and gold in 2003 at worlds. She also won national all-round titles in 2002 and 2004.

Schwikert enrolled at UCLA in 2004 and won two NCAA championships and two Pac-10 titles in individual all-around competitions (2005, 2008).

The past few years, Schwikert has used her gymnastics expertise to work as a TV analyst for some major meets and as a stunt double for the show "Make It or Break It" on ABC Family.

This fall, she will shift her focus and dedication from tumbling mats to juggling classes in law school.

"I'm 26 and I'm ready to hang up my leotards," Schwikert said. "Twenty-six isn't old by any means, but for a gymnast it's over the hill."

Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at jwolf@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0247.