SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah – Aimee Pond is not your ordinary gymnastics coach. In addition to being blind in one eye, she lives in constant silence because she is deaf. None of this, however, has stopped her from teaching gymnastics.
Young gymnast Lillie Christianson said she loves how Pond coaches.
“She just inspires me,” Christianson said.
From teaching back-walkovers to back-handsprings, some may wonder how she does it. But Aimee uses a special coaching technique: she doesn’t speak, she just demonstrates.
“It makes me feel like I can do more things when she’s teaching me,” Christianson said.
Pond and her husband Derek opened Champions Sports Center, also known as Tumbltime, to give children with disabilities more opportunities. She is a coach and a mother, but also an example for the nation and even Brigham Young University athletes.
She was a sophomore in high school when she went to Russia for the 1998 Olympic trials. Unfortunately, a knee injury prevented her from advancing.
“The kneecap actually dislocated,” Pond remembers.
She was still able to compete on bars and said she realized winning is not important.
“It doesn’t matter if you won gold or silver, just do your best,” she said.
Pond joined the UCLA gymnastics team soon after, and they won the 2004 National Championship that year. She later transferred to BYU to finish her gymnastics career.
Brogan Evanson, the assistant BYU gymnastics coach, said Pond always impressed her.
“You didn’t even notice that it was harder for her, or that she had things that she had to adjust to because she was just so good,” Evanson said.
Evanson said it was difficult for Aimee because not only could she not hear the music for her routines, but her depth perception was thrown off.
But Pond makes no excuses. She said that when she was younger, despite wearing hip braces, her mother asked her if she wanted to join the deaf olympics, “And I said ‘No no no, I want to go to the hearing Olympics, the regular Olympics,’” she said.
Pond said that some people doubted her abilities. When she was turned away from gymnastics lessons as a child, “(My mother) had to tell me that I wouldn’t be able to take the class. And I thought ‘Why? Why can’t I?’ and my mom said ‘Well they said it’s because you’re deaf.’”
Pond has written a book about her experiences to encourage children to overcome their obstacles. Someday, she wants to expand her gym and help other kids with disabilities like hers.