What’s next for Olympian Alex Naddour

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Queen Creek resident Alex Naddour went to Rio de Janeiro as a member of the USA men’s gymnastics team and came home an Olympic medalist.

Mr. Naddour had a media gathering Aug. 26, at his father’s gym USA Youth Fitness Center, 1530 S. Gilbert Road in Gilbert.

Both men and women gymnasts often compete during the first few days of the Olympics so they often do not get to attend the opening ceremonies, Mr. Naddour said.

“Two a.m. was the earliest shuttle (back) and competing the next day in the afternoon so for us to risk not getting sleep was not really an option,” Mr. Naddour said during an interview. “But that’s why we stayed after. We stayed after to do the closing ceremony, and USA gymnastics and the IOC helped us.

“They were awesome. It was amazing the amount of people that were in that arena,” Mr. Naddour said. “It just echoed, the fireworks and everything was just one of those moments you will remember forever.

Mr. Naddour’s father, Mike, who is also his son’s coach, said a few members of the 2012 team had not stayed for the closing ceremony and regretted it.

“That’s something they got to do together as a team and it was really special,” Mike Naddour said of his son staying for the ceremony.

During the qualification round on the pommel horse, Danell Leyva went first and scored a 14.533, then Chris Brooks and Sam Mikulak had mistakes, scoring 12.766 and a 13.1 respectively. Then it was Mr. Naddour’s turn.

“I wasn’t thinking about them,” Mr. Naddour said. “I was just thinking about myself and what I needed to do. What they do is out of control just like what any other gymnast or any other country is out of my control. The only thing I can control is the gymnastics that I do and perform it to the best of my own abilities.”

Mr. Naddour put up a 15.366, which put him seventh individually. The top eight qualify for the individual event finals with only two per country allowed. Mr. Naddour qualified on the pommel horse.

The team was second to China with a score of 270.405 after the qualification round. Scores reset for the event and team finals.

Leading up to the event finals the father-son team had a few conversations about not holding back.

“You’re not going to medal if you hold back and try to be safe,” Coach Naddour said of his son. “You have to put it all out there and give it everything you have and if it works out it works out. You can’t be safe and secure and hold back. You have to give it everything you have.”

“I knew going in, I told my brother, ‘I think a 15.7 will put me on the podium,’” Mr. Naddour said. “First guy goes up and went 15.6, next guy had a mess-up.”

Just before Mr. Naddour went up to the horse, Coach Naddour reminded his son, “Give it everything you have.”

Mr. Naddour said he has neverANG17412 scored above a 15.5 in an international competition.

“I knew I had to do the set of my life and be the best I could ever be,” Mr. Naddour said. “And what better time than at the games. Like people have said, I was picturing my wife and my daughter before I went and smiled and felt relaxed. Like, I knew it was going to happen.”

“Going into the finals knowing that there are guys going after him that are really good,” Coach Naddour said.  “You have to take the opportunity to do the best that you can.”

He completed his routine and waited for the score.

“15.7 came up and I knew right then that it would take an amazing set from another person, from a few other people to knock me down. I know Louis (Smith of Great Brittan) and Max (Whitlock, also of Great Brittan) could beat that score but I knew it was a top three score.”

And Mr. Whitlock and Mr. Smith did score higher, bringing home the gold and silver with scores of 15.966 and 15.833, respectively.

“There were still two guys to go when I was sitting in third place, hoping they don’t bump me out.” Mr. Naddour said.
Mr. Naddour performed third. There were five competitors to go after him so the wait was long.

“Just waiting was really, really hard, each guy going and you’re hoping and it comes all the way down to the last guy,” Mr. Naddour said. “I knew he was raising his difficultly and could potentially beat me but when I saw him mess up slightly on the dismount, I knew there was no way they should give that higher than mine.”

The score of Russian gymnast Nikolai Kuksenkov, who was the last to go, was a 15.233.

“When the score came out and saw it was a done deal it was an emotional, awesome time,” Mr. Naddour said.
His father also won’t forget that moment.

“He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, ‘I did it,’” Coach Naddour said. “I’m tearing up now, he was so excited.”

The moment that the bronze medal was placed on his neck was another emotional time, Mr. Naddour said.
“It’s something you envision as a kid,” the Olympian said. “You’re looking around seeing the Olympic rings and what it means to your country, your family and all the hard work and it’s just an emotional, awesome feeling that you’ll never experience unless you’re there doing it.”

“It’s just an amazing thing,” Coach Naddour said of his son’s medal. “To see the American flag go up and that whole feeling of he did it.”

“Even if you take four years and have everything fall into place just like you always dreamed it would happen,” Coach Naddour  said. “To see him grow up, in the gym and go through the process and reach his goals and for me to be a part of it has been amazing.”

Mr. Naddour said there was only one part better than having the medal placed on him, and that was seeing the U.S. flag raised.

“You see that in the awards ceremony and you’re like, ‘I want that, I want that,’” Mr. Naddour said. “I’ve had that at world championships with the team but never as an individual.”

Mr. Naddour’s pommel horse medal is the first for Team USA since 1984, when Peter Vidmar won gold and Tim Daggett brought home the bronze.

One of the first things that Mr. Naddour did was come home and get an Olympic tattoo.

“It’s something that I have always wanted,” Mr. Naddour said. “I wanted to have the Olympic rings last time I was an alternate, so I wasn’t technically considered an Olympian so I didn’t get the rings. That’s an honor only for Olympians.”

Mr. Naddour said that while he was on the team and went to London, he didn’t feel he was an Olympian because he didn’t compete.

“The whole arm will be Olympic-themed.” Mr. Naddour said. “Below it, I am most likely going to do games of the XXXI Olympiad, there will probably be a USA through the rings.”

Mr. Naddour said his tattoo artist free-hands everything but the design will also incorporate scenes of Rio like Christ the Redeemer and the Greek goddess Nike, who is featured on the Olympic medals.

Mr. Naddour was only home a short time before he left for the Kelloggs Tour of Champions. The tour is three months with the first show Sept. 15 and ends Nov. 13. The tour is put on after ever summer Olympic games by USA Gymnastics and Kelloggs.

“It will be in Glendale in September,” Mr. Naddour said. “We’ll try and get a bunch of people to go.”

The tour comes to Glendale on Sept. 22 and Mr. Naddour has a promo code of “ALEX2016” to save $10.

“It’s like a cirque show,” Mr. Naddour said. “We get to go and learn the dancing and doing synchronized flips.”

Mr. Naddour said the shows are fun to perform in because they don’t have to worry about judges’ scores.

“We’re just going out and having a good time and performing,” he said. “I am super excited about that.”

The hardest part, he said, will be being away from his wife Hollie Vise-Naddour and baby daughter, Lilah.

“I get to be back before Christmas and that’s my favorite holiday, so we’ll do it up big for Christmas and it’ll be fun.”

While the Rio 2016 Olympics has ended, the Queen Creek Olympian already has set his sights on Toyko 2020.

“The next year will tell where exactly I am,” Mr. Naddour said. “I’ll be going for at least another year to try for the individual world championships in 2017.”

The 2017 World Championships will be in Montreal.  New rules for the men’s team include a team is now four all-arounders and two specialists.

“I can probably stay on pommel horse since no one has really beaten me on that, I’m an Olympic medalist,” Mr. Naddour said. “I can keep doing pommel horse and rings so maybe two or three events and I could be at 2020.”

News Services Assistant Arianna Grainey can be reached at 623-445-2717, via e-mail at agrainey@newszap.com or on twitter at ariannagrainey

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