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By JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Writer on Feb 9, 2006

Bradshaw leads Tulsa into future

Haney service award winner's efforts stretch far beyond the gym.


Great things come to those who take advantage of opportunity. Linda Bradshaw is the living embodiment of that.


Bradshaw, owner and operator of Tulsa World of Gymnastics, will receive the J.V. Haney Community Service Award during the Bill Connors Sports Dinner Thursday at the Tulsa Marriott Southern Hills.


This year, the event, presented by the Tulsa Sports Commission in honor of the late Tulsa World sports editor, also pays tribute to Oral Roberts University athletic director Mike Carter as Tulsa Sportsman of the Year.


Bradshaw's involvement in the Tulsa community has always been strong, but she didn't reach warp speed until stepping away from day-to-day coaching at TWOG.


Bradshaw chaired the Tulsa Area United Way's small business division in 1998-99, was co-chair of the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce's resource campaign in 1999, chaired the chamber's organizational marketing arm in 2000, co-chaired the Crescendo Music Awards from 2000-03, was the Rotary Club of Tulsa's chairman of the board in 2003, chaired the Rotary Club's Henry P. Iba Citizen-Athlete Awards in 2004 and will serve as president of the Rotary Club of Tulsa in 2006-07. She was also appointed to the mayor's Economic Development Commission in 2003.


Bradshaw's impact on Tulsa gymnastics has been immeasurable. She opened Tulsa World of Gymnastics in 1976 after watching Romanian gold medalist Nadia Comaneci's run of perfect 10's. In 2001, Comaneci and two-time Olympic champion Bart Conner -- now husband and wife -- helped Bradshaw celebrate TWOG's 25th anniversary, and in 2004, Conner and Comaneci accepted Bradshaw's invitation to emcee the Iba Awards.


"I never dreamed that little girl, the darling of the 1976 Games, would celebrate my 25th anniversary here in Tulsa with me," Bradshaw said.


She's also fiercely proud of thousands of her former pupils, particularly Diane Cushenberry (1996 Big Eight gymnast of the year at Oklahoma) and Ashley Kelly (2005 third-place NCAA finisher at Arizona State). Others, like Oklahoma State soccer star Lauren Colwell, have gone on to success in other sports.


"(Gymnastics) is physically so demanding and so hard on the body," she said, "if you get some kids that make it all the way through in one piece, you're really lucky."


Still, that which she is most proud of happened almost by accident and has little to do with gymnastics.


After greeting Iba Awards recipient Nancy Lopez at the airport in 2003, she asked Lopez about the charity to which she was contributing, Adventures in Movement for the Handicapped. Lopez referred her to the program's founder, Dr. Jo Geiger, who in the 1950s began pioneering the education of developmentally disabled children through music and movement.


Bradshaw -- a music major at the University of Tulsa and a classical pianist -- was intrigued.


Geiger invited Bradshaw to her AIM office in Dayton, Ohio, and soon after, Geiger was in Tulsa conducting a workshop for more than 120 statewide professionals who work with handicapped children.


And next month, Tulsa Public Schools will host Geiger at a clinic for TPS special ed teachers.


Receiving the Haney Award for all that -- and more -- makes Bradshaw blush.


"I'm absolutely thrilled, not just for the Haney Award, but also for my association with Nita Connors, Bill Connors' widow," Bradshaw said. "Anything associated with his name is so meaningful to me."


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