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April 15, 1999 - Image 16

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-04-15

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16A - The Michigan Daily_-_Thursday,_April_15, 1999

D'ESINED TO

BE A

9WoVRN

M' gymnast will compete one last time
By DAN DINGERSON mDaLY SPORTS WRITER

Football games in Michigan Stadium are
one of the best recruiting tools for the foot-
ball team. The thought of playing in front of
more than 100,000 fans entices some of the best
athletes in the country to come to Ann Arbor.
It would probably surprise many people
though, that a football game in the mid-1980s
would bring the co-captain of the 1999 men's
gymnastics team to Michigan.
Randy D'Amura first came to Ann Arbor with
his dad when he was 7-years-old to see a
Michigan football game. At that moment, he fell
i' love with the school and decided that he want-
ed to be a part of that tradition.
"Ever since then I have been a fan, a total
Michigan Wolverine," D'Amura said. "I always
wanted to be a student-athlete here - well, I
didn't know what a student-athlete was then, but
an athlete.
"Since I had done gymnastics for 16 years, it
was a natural fit as soon as I found out that there
was a program here."
"Student-athlete" is a term that has entered
into the country's conscience in recent years.
Prior to that, there was a clear distinction
between the two.
Still, many people don't realize exactly what
goes along with being a student-athlete at
Michigan. Most people think that it involves
occasionally attending Kinesiology classes and
going to practice. For some, this is undoubtedly
true, but not for all.

Some student-athletes use the opportunity to
help the University and the community.
D'Amura is one such athlete.
Most people on campus probably don't know
who this senior from Texas is - he doesn't
play a sport that gets any television coverage or
much thought on this campus.
The people within the Athletic Department
certainly do. He is heavily involved in the stu-
dent-athlete advising council, he is the chair of
the special events committee-and helps with vari-
ous community service causes. -
One activity that he is particularly proud of in
his four years at Michigan is the team's work
with school children. D'Amura has organized a
program where a couple of the gymnasts go to
local elementary schools and perform gymnas-
tics. The program not only gives the kids an
interesting performance, but it helps to spread
D'Amura's love for gymnastics and the
Michigan program.
"We did the program last year too, and one
time we had this whole kindergarten class come
to our meet. Their teacher brought a whole pack-
et full of kindergartners thank you letters,"
D'Amura said. "It was great, little things like that
make it great. It's another thing where you can
make an impact as a student-athlete. It makes
you feel like you are doing the right thing."
D'Amura also takes his academics seriously.
An economics major, D'Amura, like other
seniors, is going through the interview process
right now.
He says that he didn't really realize just how
great being a University student was until he
started interviewing this year. D'Amura is using
his experiences as an athlete and as a captain to
help himself in the professional world.
"Its all about relating your experiences and
putting it in their words," D'Amura said. "I tell
them about how gymnastics has taught me to
pay attention to details, and then I apply that to
academics. Also, I have learned how to lead peo-
ple and work with different personalities and
mesh them together."
Despite his future plans, D'Amura is a stu-
dent-athlete first and foremost, and athletics have
played a great role in his life at Michigan.
Probably no one on this campus, or maybe
even in the country, can understand exactly what
D'Amura has gone through. Four years ago,
Michigan was seriously considering dropping
men's gymnastics as a varsity sport. When
D'Amura came to visit campus he was told that,
although there were no scholarships to give, the
program would continue.
"We weren't sure if the team was only going
to be here for my freshman and sophomore year
or if it would continue."

His first year on the gymnastics team, the
team was winless, and considered by some to be
the worst team in the country. After that season,
the department made a coaching change, and
D'Amura started to see a turnaround.
"When the program made a commitment to
us, it made me proud to be a Michigan
Wolverine," D'Amura said. "Leaders and best
- all of those words that people associate with
being a Wolverine - they started to ring truer
for me. Then when they brought Kurt in, you
could tell that they made a commitment."
In the three years since Michigan hired Kurt
Golder as coach, the Wolverines have been the
talk of the gymnastics world. This year they have
arrived at the forefront of the NCAA gymnastics
world, eaming a number one ranking and quali-
fying for national championships.
Very few collegiate athletes have ever been a
part of such a turnaround. From going winless as
a freshman to being Big Ten champion as a
senior - and possibly national champion. In
addition to experiencing this great revolution of a
program, D'Amura is the only senior, and thus
the only gymnast left from the pre-Golder era.
He is also the floor leader of Michigan's resur-
gence, something that hasn't gone unnoticed by
his coach.
"He was really important for me. He does a
great job at relating things between the team and
the staff," Golder said. "His peers respect him,
and I respect him."
As the only senior on the team and having
endured the program's tough times, it may seem
obvious why D'Amura is team captain. It only
becomes obvious why he is a captain after listen-
ing to him talk about his role on the team.
"Being a leader is really important to me. I
want the young guys to be able to lead when
they get older so that the program can continue
to succeed," D'Amura said.
Although leadership is always important in
athletics, it is even more crucial to young, inex-
perienced teams. Michigan is a young team this
year, with nine freshmen and sophomores on the
roster.
"It would have been nice to have a classmate
who would understand what I have been through
with this team," D'Amura said. "Being alone
though has brought out my leadership qualities
though because it has put me in the forefront."
D'Amura has made the journey with the
Michigan gymnastics program, but it is all com-
ing to an end soon.
After giving 16 years of his life to the sport,
D'Amura only has one more competitive meet.
The NCAA Championships in Lincoln, Neb.
will be the final time that D'Amura takes the
floor as a gymnast.

0

0

Since the age of sever, Michigan gymnast Randy D'Amura has been a Michigan fan. D'Amura, a
senior, will compete in his last meet this weekend at the NCAA Championships.

* "I have been so happy and proud of this team
that I haven't been thinking about the end. We
still have a job to do, so its not over yet,"
D'Amura said.
"I don't see it as a negative, though. This team
has done some things that I will always be proud
of, I'm also excited to get on with my life and
see what its like on the other side without gym-
nastics."
The men's gymnastics team will not be losing
its best competitor or its best scorer when
D'Amura leaves.
The team will be losing a beacon of spirit and
history, though. No one in the department will
have been with the program before Golder, and
probably no one will be able to match
D'Amura's spirit.

"It's great to have Randy on the team," Golder
said. "Not only is he a great gymnast and a great
leader, but I really enjoy just talking to him,
"We always talk about Michigan football, or
basketball or hockey. We can always talk about
the other Michigan sports because we both love
them so much. Being an alumnus of the school,
it is nice to have that kind of spirit on the team,"
Golder said.
if any athlete on campus can understand what
it really means to be a Wolverine, Randy
D'Amura is that athlete. He has been in love
with Michigan for more than 14 years, longer
than some freshmen can remember.
"I feel like I'm maize and blue," D'Amura
said. "I would do anything for this team and this
school to help it succeed."

DANA LINNANE/Daily
This season D'Amura and the Michigan men's
gymnastics team has had its most successful
season in recent history.

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