April 5, 2004
Courtesy of Inside Gymnastics
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Stanford senior Dan Gill, the only current NCAA athlete on the U.S. National Team, won the Nissen-Emery award in Champaign, Ill.
Gill beat out Jeffery Anderson (Navy), David Eaton (Cal), Jamey Houle (Ohio State), Jamie Northrup (William and Mary), Bob Rogers (Illinois), Quinn Rowell (Oklahoma) and Kevin Tan (Penn State) to earn gymnastics' equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
"These other guys that were nominated, they're an impressive group," Gill told Inside Gymnastics. "To win the award with that strong of a group nominated, that's a real honor. You see the list of winners from the past and it just blows me away."
In his acceptance speech, Gill, who will graduate this summer with a B.A. in biology,thanked Stanford Head Coach Thom Glielmi, whom he said made him a "much, much better gymnast than I ever expected," and his parents, Tom and Lorna. "My parents [have given me] 17 years of support and caring," Gill said. "Even when I fell six times in a meet they were always there with a smile and a hug. They supported me when I flew halfway across the country to go to Stanford, which turned out to be the best decision of my life."
The Nissen award was founded in 1966 by backyard trampoline pioneer George Nissen to honor the nation's top senior gymnasts. In 1998, former winner (1969), Dr. Robert Emery, created a financial endowment that ensured the continuation of the award.
Now 92, Nissen thrilled the crowd by doing his trademark handstand which, in his only nod to age, is now "just" an armstand.
Nominations for the Nissen-Emery award are accepted from college coaches and judges, with the winner voted on by coaches, judges and student-athletes. The trophy itself is inscribed with the phrase: "The true champion seeks excellence physically, mentally, socially and morally."
Also selected were the regional coaches of the year and the National Assistant Coach of the Year. The latter went to Illinois' Jon Valdez, who said that it was his, "first award for coaching, my first award ever, actually."
Barry Weiner (West), Yoshi Hayasaki (Central) and C.J. Johnson (East) were voted regional the Coaches of the Year by their peers. (The winning squad's coach is automatically named national Coach of the Year.)
Other awards given out at the banquet were a Special Service Award to former Illinois-Chicago coach Hal Frey; Tom Dunn (Iowa) and Marvin Johnson (Eastern Michigan) were given Honor Coach awards. The 1984 Olympic coaching tandem of Abie Grossfeld, who has coached at Southern Connecticut for 42 years, and Makoto Sakamoto (Brigham Young), were given honorary "lifetime membership" in the College Gymnastics Association.
The banquet's special guest speaker was two-time Olympian and former NCAA (Illinois and Temple) gymnast, Dominic Minicucci. "Competing at these championships in 1988 made it possible for me to make the Olympic team," Minicucci told the crowd. "[College] gymnastics was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and it made so many things possible."
Click here to read a feature article on Gill, courtesy of Inside Gymnastics.