Gymnast soars in her senior year
Gymnast Olivia Courtney (left) is the daughter of Tonia Courtney, a contracting intern with the Army Contracting Command, New Jersey. (Photo of Olivia Courtney courtesy of UCLA. Photo of Tonia Courtney, U.S. Army)

Life for Olivia Courtney has had a lot of ups and downs along with twists and turns.
A world-class gymnast, Olivia is the daughter of Tonia Courtney, a contracting intern with Army Contracting Command-New Jersey.

A senior at the University of California at Los Angeles, Olivia took to the sport at a very early age.

"My oldest daughter Crystal started gymnastics in Louisville, Ky. Our commute to the gym was about an hour, and Crystal's practices were three to four days a week, four hours each day," said Tonia.

"I began working at the gym where Crystal was training and I enrolled Olivia in a gymnastics class to pass the time. Olivia started gymnastics a couple of months before she turned 3-years-old so she has been doing gymnastics for 19 years."

As far as Tonia is concerned, it's been a very production 19 years.

At the age of 4 Olivia was chosen to perform at the 1996 Olympic World Tour in Louisville that showcased the first Olympic gold medal U.S. gymnastics team. After that, Tonia said Olivia was hooked. Years later she would place 10th in the 2008 Olympic trials.

"She started setting goals for herself," Tonia said. "In kindergarten her goal was to make the Olympics, and in sixth grade her goal was to compete for UCLA. Although she had such high expectations, gymnastics was always like playtime for her."

Olivia won the all around award at her first competition when she was 7 years old. That was just the first of many more to come.

"When she made the U.S. National Team, I traveled to all of her competitions in the states," Tonia said. "I was not able to travel to the international competitions mainly because I did not know which competitions she would be selected for, so I couldn't plan in advance. Olivia was selected to compete in Germany, France, Belgium, Argentina, Italy and Guatemala.

"Since Olivia has been at UCLA, I try to attend as many competitions as I can. Her first competition is in January and it ends with NCAA's in April. I attend at least four regular season meets, along with Pacific 12's, regional's, and NCAA's each year."

Through the years, Tonia has been Olivia's biggest supporter and said there was a time when watching her on the balance beam or any event was nerve-racking.

"I was most worried about Olivia competing when she was trying to make the U.S. National Team. It was always a goal of hers, and a goal of mine as well," said Tonia. "Making the U.S. National Team meant that all of her gymnastics expenses were totally funded by USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee, and it also helped her chances of getting a full four-year scholarship to her choice of school."

Prior to making the U.S. National Team, Tonia estimates she easily spent $1,200 a month for her daughter's training costs along their travel costs, per diem, airfare, hotel, rental cars and sometimes the travel expenses for the coach. She also said it has been worth every penny.

Tonia said Olivia is currently focusing on her upcoming season and graduating in June.

"She hasn't decided yet if she will continue with competitions after she graduates," Tonia said of Olivia. "She does plan to continue training and hopes to use her gymnastics skills in other aspects like stunt doubling. Because she's been doing gymnastics her entire life, I know she would like a break, and then again I know she will miss it. I would like to see her continue with competition, but we'll see."

Page last updated Thu January 9th, 2014 at 10:59