Tigard teen plans to someday make US Olympic team

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Spencer Goodell won fourth place on the pommel horse at the national championships held in Portland May 5. Goodell said the apparatus is his favorite, although it is traditionally one of the more difficult aparatus to master.’Round these parts, folks call him “The Ant.”

It’s easy to see why. Spencer Goodell is shorter than most of the other boys his age, but what the 13-year-old Tigard seventh-grader lacks in stature, he makes up for in strength.

That strength comes in handy for Goodell, a rising star in one of the most difficult Olympic sports out there: Men’s gymnastics.

“It’s one of those things that is stuck in your head all day,” Goodell said at his Beaverton gym. “You always want to be in the gym. It’s really fun. I like being with my friends, but when it comes to working hard, that is what I’m big at.”

On May 5, Goodell placed sixth overall in the Junior Olympic National Championships, securing him a spot on the USA Junior National Team.

A student at St. Anthony Catholic School in Tigard, Goodell is the first Oregonian to make the team, made up of the best young gymnasts from across the country.

In June, Goodell heads to Colorado for the Olympic Training Center, where he will practice with the U.S. National Team.

On to Colorado

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Spencer Goodell, 13, of Tigard, is the first Oregonian to make it to the USA Junior National gymnastics team. He plans to attend the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.Goodell will spend a week in Colorado, showing what he can do to USA Gymnastics. He’ll return to Colorado in October where the coaches will chart his progress.

“It’s a tracking process,” said Seth Smart, Goodell’s former coach and the owner of Oregon Metropolitan Elite Gymnastics Academy on Southwest Nimbus Avenue where Goodell trains. “They want to see how he advances because once he’s 16 he’ll qualify to compete at world championships and the Olympics.”

Goodell’s sights are set on competing in the Olympic Games in 2016.

“My goal is to get drafted by the national team,” he said, matter-of-factly, listing his plans for the future, “have them take me to Colorado Springs with my coach, oh, and hopefully win the Olympics.”

It’s a long wait. There are more than 1,000 days until the games begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but Goodell said he can be patient.

Goodell will be 16 by the time the next summer Olympics begin, just old enough to compete.

His parents, Tina and Shay, said their son could make the team, but will have a better shot in the 2020 Olympics.

“If he stays into it and keeps progressing at the rate he’s going, that’s a good shot for him,” his father Shay Goodell said.

That would, potentially, put him on the world stage at the top of his career, his mother Tina added.

“Most gymnasts reach their peak at about 19 or 21,” she said.

Smart, who has known Goodell since he was 3 years old, said that he has the drive to become an Olympian.

“He definitely has that Olympic dream,” Smart said. “He’s got more going for him in that direction than any kid I’ve seen. His body, his brain, his parents, his coaching, his commitment, making the national team. He is on the right track.

“I think he’s got a definite shot at 2020, the 2016 games might be too close but he’s not ever going to take his eyes off that prize.”

Of course, making it to the Games at age 16 isn’t unheard of. After all, just look at his coach.

One of the most accomplished gymnasts in the world, Dmitri Bilozerchev, was the youngest man to ever win the world championship at age 16. He brought home five gold medals from the 1984 Friendship Games — an “alternate Olympics” after the USSR boycotted the games in Los Angeles — and won three gold medals and a bronze at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

“It’s crazy to have a coach who is that good and knows exactly what to do,” Spencer Goodell said. “It’s very inspirational.”

“He’s a good role model,” his dad added.

‘Completely shocked’

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Spencer Goodell's parents and friends call him The Ant because of his great strength and short stature.Goodell gained an interest in gymnastics at a young age.

He was 3 years old when he was invited to a birthday party at Westside Gymnastics Academy in Tigard.

“He absolutely fell in love with it,” Tina said. “So we signed him up for one hour-long class a week. That turned into two hours, then the team, and now he’s training 20 hours a week.”

The middle schooler spends about four hours each day at the Oregon Metropolitan Elite Gymnastics Academy on Southwest Nimbus Avenue in Beaverton.

Goodell’s classmates at St. Anthony have supported him through his fledgling career, showing up at the national championships to cheer him on, he said.

“I did (a gymnastics routine) at the talent show years ago, and even now, I get new kindergartners who ask me, ‘Aren’t you the kid that did the talent show three or four years ago?’”

This was the first year Goodell was old enough to compete in the Junior Olympic National Championships, and he said making the Junior National Team was a dream come true.

“I was completely shocked,” he said. “I didn’t think that I was going to get it.”

At the end of the first day of competition, Goodell was ranked 20th among the 176 competitors from across the region.

On his way to the second day of competition, his father Shay told his son not to get his hopes up on winning.

“We told him, ‘OK, you need to have a realistic expectation of what you can accomplish,’ and he said that placing 15th was a realistic goal,” Shay Goodell said. “Then we watched his scores rise and rise.”

Goodell ended up placing sixth in the competition, securing his seat on the team.

This isn’t Goodell’s first trip to the Olympic Training Center. In 2010 and 2011, he was named to the National Future Stars Developmental Team, a special team for up-and-coming gymnasts aged 10 to 12.

Goodell’s favorite event is the pommel horse, he said. It’s a difficult apparatus to master, but Goodell said that’s why he likes it.

“Everybody says that if you’re too small, you will struggle at pommels, but I’m one of the smaller kids in my age group, and I’m the best at pommel horse.”

The Ant placed fourth in the national championships on the apparatus, and said people were surprised by his prowess on what has traditionally been one of the most challenging events for U.S. gymnasts.

“Everyone is always like, ‘Oh my God, that little kid can do gymnastics,’” Goodell laughed.

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