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By JOHN KLEIN – World's own Service on Jul 4, 2000
Gymnastics is Bradshaw's way of life
Most people know Linda Bradshaw as "the gymnastics lady."
They may not know that Bradshaw used to be called professional bass fishermen. Or, professional pianist.
"I got into gymnastics by accident," she said. "My kids preferred tumbling to sitting at the piano or fishing."
She got involved and 25 years later finds herself as Tulsa's most high-profile gym owner.
Bradshaw is the fireball behind the effort that brought the U.S. Classic Gymfest to Tulsa this week. It is the most high-profile Olympic event to visit our city this summer.
Every top U.S. gymnast will be in Tulsa for the Classic, the first step toward the Olympics. It opens a three-day run with a practice on Thursday at the Mabee Center.
If you want to see the U.S. team that will compete in Australia this fall, come to the meet. Every contender for a spot on the U.S. team is entered.
But, like a lot of things for Bradshaw, the U.S. Classic was just one of those things that happened to her.
She started out as a pianist, majoring in music at the University of Tulsa in the 1960s. She was a pioneering woman on the professional bass fishing circuit, then found herself going to gymnastics classes with her children.
Over the years, she became more involved, eventually opening Tulsa's World of Gymnastics, which has over 1,200 gymnasts enrolled each year.
In recent years, her touch on the sport has lengthened rather dramatically.
She went out and got a major gymnastic meet in 1996 with the help of the Tulsa Sports Commission. Then, with the success of the 1996 meet on her resume, gymnastics officials came looking for Bradshaw to help during the Olympic year of 2000.
"I certainly didn't go hunting for this," she said of the meet. "We had hosted the American Classic in 1996. It had been a very tiring and exhausting event.
"But we pulled it off and I think most of the competitors, coaches and judges enjoyed it. The people here in Tulsa really did a terrific job and made it a success."
That got folks at USA Gymnastics thinking about Tulsa for future events.
"They asked us if we would be interested in hosting an event this summer as the build-up to the Olympics," said Bradshaw. "To be honest, I had not given it any thought.
"I told them maybe. They told me we had it. This just kind of happened. I had no idea we would get such a terrific event again this summer."
Unfortunately, Tulsa's horrible public arena, the Tulsa Convention Center, was both too old and too outdated to bid for the U.S. Olympic Trials or U.S. Nationals. Tulsa sadly does not have a public facility big enough or modern enough to bid on most major sports events.
However, USA Gymnastics thought the Mabee Center on the Oral Roberts University campus, which hosted the America Classic Gymfest in 1996, might be perfect for the U.S. Classic this summer.
"The floor is kind of small, but we can make it work just barely," said Bradshaw. "What makes this such a terrific event is how many great athletes will be here combined with what a great facility the Mabee Center is for fans."
Still, Bradshaw never expected Tulsa to host an event the quality of the U.S. Classic.
"We are really lucky," she said. "Everyone in gymnastics knows what a great event this will be with the great young kids going up against the veterans. I hope people get out and enjoy it."
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