Former Olympian, BYU alum honored for gymnastic achievements

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Ari Davis
Former BYU gymnast Wayne Young was honored at the BYU gymnastics meet against Utah State for his 40th anniversary of competing in the Olympics. (Ari Davis)

BYU gymnast Wayne Young traveled from Provo to Japan 40 years ago to train alongside some of the world’s best gymnasts.

What he brought back from Japan was a method the United States hadn’t yet seen. To this day, Young is credited by many with changing the way the U.S. looked at the sport. Young was honored at the BYU gymnastics meet against Utah State Feb. 19 for his 40th anniversary of competing in the Olympics. Young designed the gymnastics practice gym in the Smith Fieldhouse almost 30 years ago.

Young came to BYU in 1970 with little gymnastics training. He improved his skills and as a junior and began competing for BYU in the all-around competition, winning the Western Athletic Conference title and placing third in the NCAA.

“My dad does nothing less than 100 percent,” said Jessica Wycherly, Young’s daughter.

In 1973, Young spent six months in Japan shadowing some of the world’s best gymnasts. While there, he noticed Japan had a different training approach than the U.S. did. Gymnastics in Japan was gymnast-driven; gymnastics in America was typically coach-driven. In Japan, everybody was a coach out of necessity because there were no coaches.

The Japanese also had an intricate training system to ensure they peaked at the right time. They planned backward to be successful, identifying the competition they wanted to peak in and then working back day-by-day to make sure the daily schedule was mapped out in detail. They knew exactly what they were doing every day until the competition. This prevented distractions and helped them avoid fatigue, Young said.

He came back to BYU knowing how to “train correctly.” He put into action what he had learned.

“He came back and it’s not like he was a great gymnast,” said Guard Young, Young’s son and the current BYU gymnastics head coach. “But he learned how to train like a great gymnast.”

Young’s new training plan helped him win the NCAA all-around National Championships during his senior year at BYU in 1975. By the time he graduated, he earned six WAC titles and was named BYU’s first All-American in gymnastics.

In 1976, Young was elected captain of the U.S. Olympic team. He finished 12th in the all-around competition, which was the best placement of any U.S. gymnast in 40 years.

“If you’re gonna be the best and be successful, you have to be laser-focused,” Young said. “You have to work hard. You can’t get sidetracked. You have to have a plan to get there.”

Young was recognized for years as the country’s best male gymnast, and the techniques he brought back from Japan changed the training approach for many others. While a gymnast might not be the best athlete, the best training plan and focus can help them succeed.

“He really propelled this country into the next generation of gymnasts,” Guard said. “And opened a lot of doors for a lot of athletes.”

Young was the BYU gymnastics head coach from 1979 to 1987. He used the training techniques he learned in Japan to train his athletes then, and he also taught these same skills to his son Guard. Guard became a successful gymnast, winning two NCAA National Championships on the vault at BYU and a silver medal with the 2004 Olympic team. As head coach of the BYU women’s gymnastics team, Guard now uses the same training techniques to help his athletes.

This year, Young celebrates his 30th anniversary of being inducted into the BYU Hall of Fame and 40th anniversary of competing in the Olympics.

Overall, Young looks back on his gymnastics career with gratitude.

“Gymnastics has been very good for me and very good to me,” he said.