'It’s nothing short of a miracle': How OU's Gage Dyer took an unusual path to gymnastics stardom
NORMAN — Gage Dyer knows his story isn’t the norm.
The junior OU gymnast knows that starting gymnastics as a teenager and quickly moving up the ranks to compete at the U.S. Championships and for the only school he ever considered isn’t something that happens to everyone.
Dyer remembers coming home from Norman’s Victory Gymnastics after his first practice — just a few weeks removed from his 13th birthday — and being crushed.
“I thought there was going to be no hope, because I couldn’t do a pull-up,” Dyer said. “That was how far behind I was.”
Now, eight years later, pull-ups are no longer a struggle and Dyer is among the nation’s best collegiate gymnasts.
Dyer and the top-ranked Sooners will host No. 9 Iowa on Saturday night at McCasland Field House in OU’s home opener.
The kid from Yukon who had done tumbling for years but hadn’t started gymnastics until he was a teenager is now the top-ranked collegiate gymnast in the floor exercise, No. 5 in high bar and No. 8 in the all-around headed into this weekend’s meet.
After the struggles with the pull-up the first day, and subsequent struggles doing one turn around a “mushroom” — the training aid gyms use to get young gymnasts familiar with the pommel horse — Dyer immersed himself fully in gymnastics.
“Although he could flip and jump and do things, it was that core strength that he didn’t have,” his mother, Kim Dyer, said. “For Gage, he was so determined that he couldn’t do it that it pushed him quickly. He was a man on a mission.”
He might’ve been far behind in years, but he quickly caught up to plenty of his fellow gymnasts in hours put into the craft.
Dyer was homeschooled and his routine was to wake up, do one class, then go outside and get to work — either on the trampoline or on the mushroom his parents bought him to use at home. He’d come back in after awhile, sit down at the kitchen table for another class, head back out and repeat the cycle several times each day.
Once school was over for the day, he’d jump in the family car for the 45-minute drive to Norman for a three-hour practice, first at Victory and later at the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy in Norman.
Dyer quickly moved up through the gymnastics ranks.
Less than a year after he began, his coaches at Victory set up a meeting with Dyer’s parents.
“Gage has the ability to go as far as he chooses to do in gymnastics,” the coaches told Kim and Greg Dyer.
“We were shocked,” Kim said. “That wasn’t our plan. It was Gage’s dream (though). … I remember us looking at each other thinking, ‘Really? Is this really possible?’”
Kim said she hoped Gage’s path would inspire others.
“Gage was always a man on a mission,” Kim said. “He had his sights set from 13 that he was going to go to OU.
“It’s neat that they can see that, ‘Hey, I can do this too’ and Gage inspiring them that even though he didn’t start until he was 13, that it’s possible if you work hard and you set your mind to it and give it all you’ve got.
“That’s what Gage did.”
Last year, Dyer won the bronze medal in the floor exercise at the U.S. Championships.
“It’s nothing short of a miracle,” Gage said. “You don’t hear stories of people starting at 13 and then several years later competing and placing against the top guys in the nation.”
No. 1 OU (7-1) vs. No. 9 Iowa (2-4)
When 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: McCasland Field House, Norman
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37)