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We fly and flip off of walls. 'Nuff said.
The gymnastics club meets Wednesday evenings, 7:15pm, on the steps of Chapin Hall where they drive to Gymfest at an off-campus gym in Pittsfield, usually returning around 10:30pm. The facilities include a spring floor, tumble-track, pommel horse, mount, rings, and bars. Gymfest! is an open-gym night shared by Williams and the Pittsfield community. All levels of gymnastics are welcome, even beginners.
The club in its present form began in 2002 when former high-school gymnasts Ilya Feldsherov ('06) decided to start a gymnastics club for any gymnasts on the Williams campus. At this point there was not yet an established idea of what the club would be or how it would be conducted, just a rough sense of giving gymnasts who were deprived of their sport at Williams a chance to stretch their muscles and limber up again. An all-campus e-mail was sent out to that effect, inviting any interested parties, and one of the first replies came from and Melody Marchman ('06), also a former gymnast, who would soon go on to become co-captain. Also, another miraculous reply came from none other than Ricardo Portalatin, Springfield College alum and graduate of their prestigious College Gymnastics Association's National Academic Team. 'Rico' was a former graduate assistant to current Springfield College CGANAT head coach, Steve Posner, and was chosen to represent Puerto Rico at the 1995 World Championship in Japan. Rico later married, got wonderful dogs, and joined the Williams College community as a locksmith, deciding to hang up his leotard forever....or did he?
An immediate hit with students, Rico was hired as coach of the club (although he refused any and all attemps to actually pay him) at the behest of Ilya and Mel for 2 years until his departure from Williams in 2004. During this time the club met twice a week and drove only as far as the local Y, where it would join an after-school gymnastics program already in place under the guidance of Mrs. Denise Forkey (of Mr. Forkey of the physics department fame!). Rico, Mel, and Ilya taught several students to tumble, molding them from stiff, couldn't-touch-their-toes-if-they-tried statuettes into cartwheeling, round-off back-hand-springing-(with a tuck!)-honest-to-goodness gymnasts, Alejandro Acosta ('06) being one of the captains' best proteges. Despite his years off the mat, Rico maintained, frankly, an unbelievable physique for a man with a wife, two dogs, and a steady job. In truth, he snuck away every lunch hour to hit Lasell Gym, dominated Iron Man competitions, and it is quite possible that he fought crime by night, getting home just in time to have breakfast with the family. It is in that easy-going spirit of dedication and determination that the Williams Gymnastic Club operates and maintains that anyone--ANYONE--can become a gymnast.
In Rico's absence the club continued, led by Melody and Ilya, meeting and working with Mrs. Forkey and her extremely talented group of girls. For a time, the club hired a young Stanford graduate by the name of Shira Wohlberg to coach their group. Shira was quite talented with an impressive background in the circus, however many of her exercises were perhaps geared more for the circus and not a mixed group of gymnasts.
Since 2005, the group has met once a week, led by a committed and talented pool of student gymnasts. Mrs. Forkey's gymnastics team was asked to leave the Y due to increased insurance costs, and so after a brief stint of meeting in the cramped basement of a North Adams church, the college club broke away from Mrs. Forkey and her girls to work out at Gymfest! in Pittsfield on Wednesday evenings, where they continue to meet to this day. Eliot Corley II ('07) still acts as the indentured driver who delivers the club to their destination every week due to losing a warm-up suit at the New Englands Gymnastics Championships in 2004. The club has a promising future with Sarah Fink ('08) and Sayd Randle ('08) leading it, as the next co-captains. They will be far more benevolent than previous leaders, likely allowing stops at Dunkin' Donuts on the way home from every practice. Ilya a.k.a. Bela Karolyi, will miss his children but knows that they will condition just as hard even when he's not there.