THE VAST LANDSCAPE OF U.S. men’s gymnastics comprises countless private gym clubs, a dwindling number of NCAA programs and one hidden treas-
ure on the eastern edge of the
Southern Rocky Mountains.
The latter would be the U.S.
Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where a
select group of male gymnasts can literally live their dream.
JEFF SIPSEY (MARINITCH)
Conceived in 1990 by Ron Brant (a former Illinois gymnast
who now works at the U.S. Olympic Committee), the resident
men’s gymnastics program at the OTC was a novel idea at first.
Few top gymnasts were willing to turn down a college scholarship and move to Colorado. But with only 17 men’s NCAA
men’s programs remaining in 2011, the OTC has become a
more viable option.
Brant served as head coach until 2000, but the OTC really got
a boost with the hiring of Ukrainian native Vitaly Marinitch, who
has been a constant presence for 16 years.
Marinitch’s gentle genius paid dividends right away, and the
main benefactor was John Macready, who had made the bold
decision to train at the OTC right out of high school. “I wanted
Through his work at the USOTC in Colorado
Springs, Vitaly Marinitch has played a critical
role in the progress of the U.S. men’s program
to go to the OTC because I felt it gave me the best chance to
In ’96 Macready improved to No. 3, behind Blaine Wilson and
make the Olympic team,” he says. “I could do college at my own
pace, and they would pay for it. Ron Brant was a great coach
and leader for the team, and got me off to a good start. But
Vitaly really made a huge difference for me when he came.”
Macready even remembers picking up Marinitch—just 24 at
the time—at the airport when he arrived in January 1995. “He
looked like he was about 16 years old, and spoke only a few
words of English,” Macready says. “It didn’t really make it hard
to learn from him because he was such a smart guy.”
Macready absolutely exploded up the rankings. “I was 23rd in
the country when Vitaly got to the OTC, and less than a year
later I was sixth and on the (1995) world championship team,”
John Roethlisberger, and earned his ticket to Atlanta.
“John was good,” says Marinitch, who is 40 but could pass for
The entrance area of the
USOTC complex in
Colorado Springs, Colo.,
which is 6,035 feet
above sea level. The OTC
Olympic and four
Paralympic sports. Since
1990 it has included a
residence program for
U.S. male gymnasts.