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June 16, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Kids are head over heels for gymnast mom Kids are head over heels for gymnast mom (June 16, 2004)

By Jessica Scott
Special to the Almanac

Lisa Izzi can really stir things up in the park. When this Menlo Park mom starts doing headstands and full-out cartwheels, "the kids get so excited," says another Menlo mom, Maryclair Thomas, and they want to try it. Izzi is more than willing to show them how.

The former head gymnastics coach at Stanford, Lisa Ann Mitzel Izzi, who turns 40 this month, was recently inducted into the gymnastics Hall of Fame at the University of Utah. When she was there in the 1980s on a full scholarship, the gymnastics team won the NCAA national title every year.

Now, this mother of three says she has a new objective: to pass along the faith and confidence learned during her gymnastics career so that "kids can feel empowered to follow their dreams."

She's doing this by giving talks at local schools, writing children's books she hopes to get published, writing columns for the Nativity School newspaper, and giving free gymnastics lessons in the park.

Izzi's passion for gymnastics began at age 8 after seeing Olga Korbut compete in the 1972 Olympics, she says. By age 16, she was competing with Olympians and U.S. National Team members in the national championships, and was ranked in the top 30 in the United States. At the 1985 championships, she won the national gymnastics floor exercise title.

Four years ago, she was named one of Utah's top 25 female athletes of all time.

Born in Whittier, California, Izzi is a sixth-generation Californian. Her family migrated to the state in the 1850s with the Gold Rush, and founded the town of Loomis, about 35 miles east of Sacramento on Interstate 80.

Her friend Thomas says she's moved by Izzi's efforts to share her spirit with children.

Izzi says she's looking for more opportunities "to speak to kids about conquering their fears, overcoming obstacles, and making their dreams come true."

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