Pyne rekindles passion, vaults to success

The numbers add up and the checkbook becomes impossible to balance and the writing becomes clear from one end of the mat to the next. It’s a truth Josh Pyne and his family learned many years ago: Gymnastics is not just about the world watching pixies at the Olympics every four years.

The sport also can be extremely expensive to compete in.

This is what makes Pyne’s climb to a young man about to embark on the college journey so ridiculously impressive. He took up gymnastics at age 7 and showed promise from the beginning, but the monthly costs of teaching him how to change direction and twist and release on a high bar became too much.

The idea that a couple with four small children and a wife who could not work at the time because of her Canadian citizenship would continue paying thousands of dollars a year in coaching and entry fees wasn’t plausible. So a kid who loved the sport but whose family couldn’t financially support him in it left the gym for good.

Until that summer day following Pyne’s freshman year in high school.

He was 15 and looking for something to do.

"I woke up and thought it would be nice to go past the gym and just see things," Pyne said. "I needed to be more active. I was getting lazy. I haven’t stopped since that day."

He is an all-around state champion from Cimarron-Memorial High School who has earned an appointment to the Air Force Academy, where he will compete in gymnastics and works toward a degree in engineering. He also considered Temple and Arizona State, but his visit to the academy and time spent with the coaches and cadets convinced him to continue his education in the classroom and on the vault in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Male gymnasts are strong, athletic, powerful. Theirs is a sport in which maturation helps, sometimes allowing them not to peak until their mid-20s. Females often do so earlier, when attributes such as balance and finesse become central in succeeding at high levels.

"Boys just get their strength later in life," said Nalani Cook, a coach of Pyne’s at Go For It USA. "But only one other time have I seen someone take off the amount of time Josh did and come back to perform so well. He still has room to grow, but he picks things up quickly and works hard. He’s naturally a very strong kid, and gymnastics only makes him stronger."

Pyne never questioned his family’s inability to begin the career earlier, never fought the fact himself and three younger sisters were more than enough for their father to support without coaching bills to pay.

But once Pyne returned to the gym, his mother had obtained a visa allowing her to work. So her son showed up that day following his freshman year and she did as well.

To get a job.

"It’s not that we didn’t want him to have the opportunity when he was 7," Suzanne Pyne said. "But those fees were pretty hefty. Once he got back and our kids were older and with me working at the gym to help pay the tuition, the entire thing was more doable for us.

"I knew he was talented, that he was just a natural for this, but I was a little surprised how far he came so fast. He’s very determined to be great at it."

Great doesn’t necessarily mean the Olympics, but what it does mean is that in Pyne you have an example for other young athletes to follow and emulate. That is, if a particular passion isn’t nourished early and much time passes, it doesn’t mean the dream is dead.

The family already this year has traveled to Reno and San Diego and Dallas and Los Angeles and Cincinnati for meets. The part about gymnastics being an expensive sport hasn’t changed.

Neither has the part about Josh Pyne, now 5 feet 4 inches tall and 135 pounds, excelling at it.

"I still feel like I did when I was 7," he said. "Having fun rolling around and doing flips and just being in the gym. I just knew inside that I never wanted to quit."

There’s an important lesson in there.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on "Gridlock," ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.

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