Los Alamitos High School Hall of Fame – Rhonda Schwandt (’81)

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Rhonda Schwandt
Class of 1981

Hometown: Los Alamitos
Current Residence: Corona

Rhonda was the second world level gymnast from Los Alamitos.  She followed in the footsteps of Cathy Rigby (Cathy recommended a gymnastics coach to her drivers ed teacher at Los Al — longtime Griffin drivers ed teacher and football coach Ron Schwandt, Rhonda took local gymnastics to another level — reaching the No. 6 gymnast in the world in 1978 and gaining accolades from Sports Illustrated which called her “potentially the best American gymnast ever.”

Unfortunately, injuries to her knees and over nine surgeries prevented her from continuing on the international level, but it gave her time to enjoy her years at Los Al, where she competed as a diver.

At UCLA she returned to gymnastics, but on a limited basis, as injuries again limited her activity.

As a coach Rhonda received an award in 2004 for her choreography and as the Level 7 Coach of the Year.

“In 1977, I became part of the first USA Jr International Elite team. Placing 3rd AA at Jr. Nationals sent me to Moscow, Russia where I became the first American to win a gold medal in the Soviet Union and was voted by the Soviet Press as the Most Outstanding Foreign Athlete. I then earned spots on the 1978 and 1979 World Championships teams. In 1979 I became the top gymnast in the US by winning the Dial National Championships and was invited to compete at the prestigious American Cup but unfortunately I needed surgery to repair torn cartilage in my knee so I was unable to accept. Coming back after surgery I won all 5 rounds of the 1979 Pacific Rim Meet, earning Overall Champion along with Kurt Thomas. Unfortunately while training for the 1979 World’s I severally re-injured my knee again. Pushing through the injury, preparing for the 1980 Olympics, I was devastated to hear of the boycott at which time I made the decision to withdraw and give up a spot on the team. I needed surgery and time off to prepare myself to go to UCLA on a full scholarship. After two years as a Bruin I made the decision to officially retire from the sport. In 1984 I moved to Pa. Joining a dance team, I spent the next two years dancing and learning to choreograph. I spent two years coaching in Pa. and moving back to Ca., another couple years at Scats-Anaheim. I then took 4 years off and got married. I came back to the sport through judging, earning my National Elite rating. After judging a few meets I decided that I would much rather be coaching which I have been doing now steadily since 1993.”

 

Rhonda Schwandt video on Youtube – 1978 World Championships

Aug 1976 – Sports Illustrated – Faces in the Crowd

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