Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On the Subject of Coaches...

There was an article in The Blue Springs Examiner this week about Al Fong and the GAGE thirtieth birthday party.  The club had a giant barbeque and students, old and new (including Terin Humphrey) were present.

The article was mostly about Al and his first ever gymnastics pupil at the Great American Gymnastics Express.  This first pupil, Yvonne Johnston attended Lees Summit Flyer's Gymnastics School and followed him and Diane Stockard when, after a falling out with the gym owner, they left Lees Summit, and at many parent encouragement, opened GAGE.  

The new space only had room for a couple of floor mats and a beam and bars and the beam would have to be moved to make room for the floor space.  The gymnasts didn't care, it was more important for them to stay with Diane and Al, the assistant coach who used to wear a "100% Chinese" slogan on his t shirt. 

According to this interview, Yvonne, however, only trained at Al's new gym for a week.  She and her parents were in their car when it was hit by a drunk driver,  Sadly, both Yvonne's parents were killed and when she left hospital she was sent to Oklahoma to live with her nearest relatives. 

Yvonne didn't return to Blue Springs, Missouri until she was an adult.  She actually worked as a coach for Al, who she claims looked after her in that period, but never got to compete for him.  Yvonne talks about how Diane and Al held Yvonne's wedding ceremony for her, how Al lent her money and gave her advice when she needed it.

Yvonne  told reporters that in the scrapbook she kept of her gymnastics experiences all that year, there is the boldly written statement from the sixteen year old girl who was sent unhappily to live in Oklahoma, "Al Fong is Still My Coach", it insisted.

For an interesting article about Al, written well before the Ivana scandal, read this ESPN bio.


  1. Hmmm... seems that Al has a (sort of) success story. I wonder if he was calmer back when he first opened his gym?

    That's so sad about Yvonne's parents, and I almost want to be swayed by the nice things she says about Al.

  2. It's nice to hear some good stuff about Al Fong for a change. Good change of pace.