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Mary Ayotte-Law : OSU Gymnast Is Enshrined in The Hall of Fame

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The era of the 1970s-early 1980s was an historical turning point; it was the time that women athletes were finally given the equality they longed for. Mary Ayotte-Law, Oregon State University gymnastics champion, was fortunate to be at her peak during that period.

“We’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of Title IX here at Oregon State next month, and I look at Title IX and the opportunity that it opened for women in athletics, and I think I was really blessed,” she said.

The 1972 Title IX amendment is a law that states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Ayotte-Law moved to Gresham, Oregon from Tri-Cities, Washington when she was in junior high school. In the eighth grade she took a P.E. class that offered gymnastics. It was then, at age 14, that her gymnastics career began.

“I had asthma when I was young, quite severely, so I really couldn’t do sports; plus in my era, there really weren’t a lot of sports available for girls,” she explained. “I was a cheerleader in seventh and eighth grade; but I was a very competitive person and I really wanted to be in a sport. Cheerleading wasn’t the same. It’s a good activity, but it wasn’t competitive, so that’s when I joined a Gresham gymnastics club.”

Having a bit of a late start to gymnastics didn’t stop her from advancing quickly in her sport. She continued gymnastics through high school and finally received a partial scholarship to OSU.

“I was one of the first female scholarship athletes at Oregon State. Full scholarships for women athletes were just starting,” she said.

From 1979 to 1982 Ayotte-Law was part of the OSU women’s gymnastics team, competing all-around. According to the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, she was a seven-time All-American in 1981 in four of five events, and won the National championship in 1982. She was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in August, 2007.

“It’s humbling, because when you look at the list of people that have been inducted, it’s a great list of all kinds of people in all kinds of sports, from athletes, coaches, administrators, owners,” she said of her induction. “It was a long time ago.  I graduated in 1982. You get busy with life, and you move on to things, but I was very pleased to have been selected.”

She also said that her husband and their four children are proud of her achievements. “They know I’ve been a successful athlete at Oregon State, and I think that this was another nice reminder of my success in that part of my life, so they were proud of that. They think it’s pretty neat.”

She described all of her children as budding athletes. Her son, 17, is a senior at Corvallis High School where he plays football and is involved in wrestling. Her three daughters, ages 14, 11 and 9, are into a variety of sports from gymnastics to softball. Her two younger daughters are on their second year of competitive gymnastics through Ayotte-Law’s own program, Peak Elite in Corvallis. She is the director of gymnastics there. Other programs At Peak Elite include cheerleading and dancing.

Ayotte-Law feels that activities and sports for children are crucial, yet at the same time kids need to be enjoying what they’re doing. “It’s important for kids to have fun being active and to get to do a wide variety of sports and activities,” she said.

“I think one of the trends that I don’t like to see is a kid specializing in sports at a very young age, and gymnastics is guilty of that.”

She explained that keeping sports pleasurable for children is key. “I think kids, when they get into an activity, they naturally enjoy what they’re doing. I would just say keep the joy in your sport. And sometimes that’s not really up to the kid.  A lot of times that’s up to the parent.”

“Sure, it’s hard, but you know anything that you’re going to be successful at is going to be hard work.  Your work should bring you joy, and if it doesn’t, then you need to re-evaluate.”

Along with the physical aspects of training, Ayotte-Law said the most difficult part of being a successful gymnast was partly spiritual as well.  “When I came to college here at Oregon State, I really began to start a personal relationship with God, so that really changed my mental aspect of my gymnastics. Before then, I really did it a lot for myself.  I was a really competitive person.  I was very intense. And when I started a more personal relationship with God, it was how can I do this and really bring glory to God, or please God in this activity?” She said she was very grateful to be blessed with her health and athletic abilities.

Ayotte-Law plans to remain with her family in Corvallis, where she now teaches physical activity courses at OSU, as well as directing at her Peak Elite program.

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6 Comments - (Leave a comment! »)

  • Katy - Connecticut said:

    I took some time to really browse around the Winners Within Us website and I just think it’s fantastic that you are giving voice to the stories that rarely make the traditional news media outlets. Somehow the Good News doesn’t always equal the Lucrative News.

    This story about Mary Ayotte-Law, the gymnast, struck a chord with me because it feels so important to me for parents to remember to keep the joy in sports for kids, instead of focusing so heavily on specialization and competition. My own daughter just started taking gymnastics and we have had talks about remembering that it is supposed to be fun. Working hard is important, but not taking the joy away is just as much so. I also liked how Ayotte-Law brought spirituality into her sport when she started college.

  • Kara – Indiana said:

    I enjoyed the interview of Mary Ayotte-Law with respect to her accomplishments and how Title IX has impacted her life, but at the end of this article, in an almost disjointed paragraph, her spiritual relationship with God is mentioned as a footnote. This opens up an entirely new in-depth conversation that deserves attention. The result ends the article with more questions than answers. I would have loved to have the conversation continued to elaborate on how Mary’s spiritual relationship with God now guides her in working with students? Does she emphasize spiritual values first before competitive urges? How does she suggest athletes focus and center their values around this while being at their competitive peak? Couldn’t this have been a thread throughout the article?
    With respect to most athletes, there is always a spiritual focus at their core, whether they are conscious of it or not. Exploring this avenue is fascinating to me as to the true motivation behind an athlete. A few simple questions along this topic can illicit some of the most soul-searching, complex answers from the interview, making for a very interesting and personal take on the human psyche of the athlete. And not just an athlete, anyone who is passionate about their work has their underlying reasons why.

  • Alvaro Cervantes said:

    I remember back in 1982 starting Gymnastics in High school, also very late, I was 18, and my couch told us about Mary and showed us some videos to learn some exercises and to see the world of gymnastics of those days. We had to exercise outside on the open, did not afford to have a real gymnasium. Today, I am happy to know she is part of our community, it is a honor. And as a personal comment; I don’t like the fact that we spend more resources in violent sports as oppose to non violent sports such as gymnastics.

  • kimba said:

    Commitment and enjoyment equal success

    This is an interesting article that raises a number of issues. Firstly, that sport and the challenge of competing should be available for all. Secondly, the importance of enjoyment and that there is no point in pushing a child (or anyone) to take part in something from which they derive no pleasure. Also, Mary came to her chosen discipline relatively late but proved that with the determination and commitment that comes from the sheer joy of excelling in something about which you are passionate, anything can be achieved.

  • bb187 said:

    Very interesting

    It’s amazing to see how far sports have come, especially with regards to women. My hat’s off to these athletes for continuing to cross boundaries many never thought possible.

  • je21na said:

    Fantastic Story

    I am a woman who LOVES sports and God. We are so blessed to have the ability to use our bodies in such wonderful recreational activities. I remember the day when they announced on the news there would be a WNBA, I was so happy. I am no super star at any particular sport, but I love playing just about all of them I will expose my children to many sports. Hopefully they will find one they enjoy so I can be on the sidelines cheering at their games :-)

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