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Beyond gymnastics with Peter Vidmar

Olympic gold medal winner Peter Vidmar says he enjoys 'doing good'

Published: Thursday, March 22 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

It was probably the first time a pommel horse had been on the ninth floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

One recent afternoon for just over an hour, 50-year-old Olympic champion Peter Vidmar animatedly paced back and forth, speaking rapidly at times with microphone in hand as he shared his trademark "risk, originality and virtuosity" message with hundreds of Deseret Media Co. employees.

During the inspiring, humorous and entertaining presentation, the 5-foot-5 gymnast, clothed in athletic wear, jumped on the pommel horse to demonstrate his unique concepts with circles, flares and other aerodynamic moves. Like the day he won three medals in the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games, Vidmar's energetic routine — both the gymnastics and speaking — was polished and well-timed and choreographed. When it was over, the audience applauded, unofficially awarding him a 10.

Since winning two gold medals and a silver about 28 years ago, Vidmar has written a book, worked as a television gymnastics commentator, found success on the corporate lecture circuit and remained intimately involved with his sport as chairman of the board of USA Gymnastics. He also serves as vice chairman of the California Governor's Council on Physical Fitness, on the Board of Governors for the Cause for Hope Foundation, and is vice president of the Orange County Youth Sports Foundation, a program that benefits underprivileged kids. Additionally, the husband and father of five is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and actively serves in various capacities.

When asked what motivates a motivational speaker, Vidmar smiled and quoted one of his favorite verses of scripture.

"I love Doctrine and Covenants 58:27 and being 'anxiously engaged in a good cause.' I enjoy doing good," Vidmar said in an interview, hours before his presentation. "It's not easy sometimes, but it's important."

Lessons and a motto

Vidmar credits his parents, John and Doris Vidmar, with teaching him the fundamental lessons that helped shape his character and life.

His father, who suffered from polio, showed Peter by example that Vidmars don't complain or quit. When Vidmar was a boy, his father came home one day with broken glasses and a bloody face. Doris Vidmar thought someone had beaten him up. John Vidmar, who worked in downtown Los Angeles, said he was crossing the street when his good leg hit a pothole and his bum leg couldn't support his weight. He couldn't get his arms up fast enough and hit the pavement face first. People stopped, brushed him off and helped him continue on his way.

"He laughed and said, 'I've got to be more careful next time,'" Peter Vidmar said. "As a 10-year-old boy, that really had an impression on me. I thought, 'Why doesn't he complain and curse life?' He struggled physically but that wasn't his attitude. He never quit, and that became our family motto. He taught us to finish what we start."

When a sibling phoned home from college with a problem, Vidmar overhead his father listen and offer encouragement.

"Well, you know what the family motto is. Just do the best you can and I'll talk to you later," Peter recalled his father's words. "He was an example to all of us from that standpoint."

Vidmar has tried to pass along those and other lessons to his own children.

Coach Sakamoto

In the fall of 1972, Vidmar's parents responded to a gymnastics ad in the newspaper and were introduced to a man who would have a tremendous influence on Peter's life. He was coach Makato Sakamoto, an international gymnastics champion. Not only did Sakamoto inspire Vidmar to work hard, but he was and continues to be a great teacher, honest to the core and full of integrity, Vidmar said.

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