Oct. 4, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. -
Each Thursday, gostanford.com presents an interview between a former Stanford gymnast and team manager Tori Lewis. This week Tori interviews Larissa Fontaine, Stanford's first NCAA individual champion. Fontaine will be become the first women's gymnast to be inducted into the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame, on Nov. 9.
The following is Larissa's conversation with Tori:
Tori: What have you been up to after graduation?
Larissa: I graduated in 2000 and then started coaching at Stanford while completing my master's degree in mechanical engineering. I finished grad school in 2002 but coached for another three years after that. I loved being a part of SWG as a coach as well as a gymnast. In 2005, I joined Google for a year before heading back to business school -- yes, at Stanford again! -- and then I rejoined Google in 2008. I still work there, now as part of the YouTube team.
Tori: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Larissa: My kids are pretty young to tell if I've done a good job with them yet, but I hope they will be my greatest accomplishment. Benjamin is 3 years old and Nora is 5 months old, they keep us busy and laughing all the time.
Tori: What did you learn most from your time in the gym?
Larissa: Working hard makes all the difference. This is true for gymnastics, for school, for your professional career. Talent and good luck are always going to help but if you commit to something, and work as hard as you can, you are much more likely to be successful.
Tori: What’s your favorite memory from SWG?
Tori: What do you miss most about Stanford and your time with SWG?Larissa:
Larissa: There are so many. Probably winning Pac-10's my sophomore year. We were the clear underdog. Only UCLA and Oregon State had ever won the Pac-10 championship, and UCLA had homecourt advantage. But we walked in the gym and decided to focus on ourselves and enjoy the night -- the meet had a disco theme -- I have no idea why there was a theme -- and we really embraced it. Our coaches even dressed the part during warmups. Imagine a lot of glitter and big wigs. As the meet went on we were having an amazing night and, despite not tracking the scores, we knew we were doing well. We finished on bars and everyone was hitting routine after routine. I was last up and when I landed, knew that regardless of the results we had done something really special.
I miss my teammates and my coaches. I loved my time at Stanford more than I can really articulate. After years of competing gymnastics largely as an individual, being able to have an entire team and coaching staff working together for four years was incredible. We have so many great memories, from inside and outside of the gym, and I am so thankful for them. Four of my teammates were in my wedding party and they're still my closest friends. Our kids are the same ages and those of us that live nearby spend a lot of time together.
Tori: How have you stayed connected to Stanford?
Larissa: They can't get rid of me. I came back for business school from 2006-2008 and still live about 20 minutes from campus. My husband Pete also went to Stanford, so we make it to most of the meets and bring our son by the gym on the weekends to watch practice. We have picnic lunches on the Quad and Ben rides his bike around campus all the time. He loves yelling "Go Stanford!" any time football is on TV, regardless of who is playing.
Tori: Do you have any other thoughts or reflections about your time on the team?
Larissa: I think each team is special in their own way. There's a chemistry that can only exist for that particular group of people. I just feel so lucky that we were all there together -- my teammates, my coaches, the doctors and trainers, and the athletic department staff. Everyone was such an important part of our experience which all led to the success the following year and every year after that. I also feel really fortunate that I was able to coach for five years after I was done competing. My bond with those teams is also really strong and I gained an entirely different perspective on what the program means to alumnae and to fans. I hope the current team knows that the alumnae still follow them and know their names and stood in the same gym where they're standing. I always loved the legacy aspect of Stanford gymnastics and I hope they do too.
Tori: Do you have any advice for the current athletes?
Larissa: Probably nothing they haven't heard before. This is such a unique experience. Just enjoy every moment and try step back to appreciate how fortunate you are. It's easy to get so caught up in the pressure of classes and practice and trying to excel at everything that you miss the moments that are truly special and that are hard to come by after college -- riding your bike across campus, laughing with your teammates around the chalk box, the excitement before a meet when you're waiting to march in, staying up late in the hotel room after competitions just talking for hours. These are incredible memories that are going to stay with you for years -- make sure to soak them up the first time around.