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

"He didn't have to tell me to work hard or be disciplined. He filled my mind with stories of the Olympic Games," Vidmar said. "Just through his storytelling, he made becoming an Olympian a romantic quest for me. I wanted to have those experiences. I knew he wanted the best for me."

The meaning of medals

As the USA men's gymnastics team captain in 1984, Vidmar led his teammates to America's first ever team gold medal in a stunning upset over the defending world champions, the People's Republic of China. He also won the silver medal in the individual all-around competition, and with a perfect score of 10, captured the gold medal on the pommel horse. He was later inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.

What do the medals mean to him now?

"They are a symbol of the process, the daily efforts to get better at something," Vidmar said. "The medals just tell a story of a boy who fell in love with a sport, tried to remain true to his training and never looked back."

Greatest accomplishment

But winning Olympic gold is not Vidmar's greatest life accomplishment.

"I don't know if children are an accomplishment, but my greatest joy in life comes from seeing my (five) children find joy," Vidmar said. "I don't know if life is really about accomplishing things; I think it's more about relationships."

Being a Latter-day Saint

Vidmar is a lifelong member of the LDS Church. His Mormon roots go back to his great-great-grandfather, Solomon Chamberlain, who was baptized by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Vidmar is proud of his pioneer heritage and strives to honor their sacrifices by being a good Latter-day Saint.

Growing up, Vidmar attended church and seminary. When he was at UCLA, he met a pretty girl on the women's gymnastics team. "I figured that was the best place to meet short-statured girls," he said.

As his relationship with Donna Harris deepened, she investigated the LDS Church and eventually asked Vidmar to baptize her. More than a year after Donna's conversion, the couple was married in the temple.

"To see her go through the conversion process was a tremendous experience for me personally. It really was for myself as well," said Vidmar, who didn't have an opportunity to serve a mission, but is proud his sons did. "It really strengthened my testimony. I can't imagine my life without the gospel."

Resignation

In May 2011, Vidmar was named the chef de mission for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, but he abruptly resigned after a firestorm of negative attention due to his financial contribution to California's Proposition 8 ballot initiative, defining marriage as between a man and a woman. He has no regrets.

"My choice to resign was based on my desire to keep our focus and the attention of the media on the athletes and the good things they do," Vidmar said. "It hurt, because it was a great honor. If athletes are going to be asked questions about something that really had no relevance to their training and preparation for the Olympic Games, then it wasn't going to be beneficial for me to serve. When I realized it could be a distraction to the athletes, it was a very easy decision just to step down. I wanted the athletes to have every possible advantage they can have."

The landing

In his spare time, Vidmar is training for an upcoming triathlon and delights in spending time with his family. Last year, they rented a cabin in the mountains with no phone or Internet service and passed the time running, biking and hiking. They also have a tradition of going to Lake Powell. He tries not to pull out his Olympic card on his kids very often — he wants them to reach their own dreams. Hopefully, being anxiously engaged in a good cause will rub off on them in the process.

"As time has gone on, I've learned life isn't about accomplishing things — it's really about building relationships. What I treasure most is the relationships I have with my wife and children, with family and friends," Vidmar said. "That's what makes life full and enriching."

Email: ttoone@desnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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