CORVALLIS An Oregon State gymnast isn't a typical college freshman athlete.
Most freshmen are aged 17 to 19 and embark on the greatest athletic stage of their lives. Many were accomplished high school athletes, perhaps all-state, and even nationally acclaimed, like a 5-star recruit or McDonald's All-American.
Although most people are locally recognized, they do not attract attention beyond that. Outside of an exception like Tiger Woods, a household name when he was enrolled at Stanford in 1994, college athletics is the next major thing.
Carey, who turns 22 in May, has joined Oregon State gymnastics this winter with a rock star. She is a five-time U.S. national team member, the in floor exercise, and the first U.S. Olympian to compete for OSU gymnastics. The name, image, and admiration opportunities, which included a prominent payday performing in the Gold Over America Tour last fall, are among the most popular among Oregon State athletes.
Carey maintained her reputation and talent this season by breaking several Oregon State records on the way to winning the Pac-12's all-around title in March. Friday, she will play in the NCAA Championship at Fort Worth, Texas (10 a.m., ESPN2).
Carey's goal was to make a quiet and smooth transition from gold medal recipient to college athlete.
I knew people would probably know who I was, especially after the Olympics, she said. I was just excited to begin a whole new chapter of my life and be able to fit in.
Carey never expected anything different because of her accomplishments. Whatever drills some Beaver gymnasts were doing, Carey did it again.
Chaplin said that some athletes do not always succeed. So that has been incredible, he said.
Madi Dagen, one of Carey's three roommates this year in an off-campus house, said "everyone has welcomed her with open arms and it's just been a lot of fun. She's been killing it," said the senior gymnast.
Dagen, who has known Carey since graduating, claims that the 2021 Olympic gold medalist has embraced every aspect of college life. It's also locked in a closet, regardless of where Carey is.
"She's been fantastic open-minded about how everything would be going," Dagen said. "Just kind of fit in. It's been fun, it's been normal, and it's felt right."
"I don't believe that she walked with the belief that 'I'm a star." Adder Carey's father Brian said: "I don't think she walked with the same mindset that'I'm a star." She said in a video game, "I get to be part of this team.... She just loves competing with that team."
Chaplin claims that coaching Carey has been smooth and that her presence has been positive for his teammates. Carey performs certain abilities with precision, and that, according to Chaplin, it has caused teammates to move to a new level.
Carey's sense while in the air, however, says Chaplin, that she's able to create a move once she's left the floor, vault, bars, or beam, is like no other.
"When you look at her, you think, there's not that much power in that body. When she takes off, she's just phenomenal," Chaplin said.
Few people on Oregon State's campus are as well recognized as Carey, even though at 5-foot-1 she's easy to miss. Carey admits that strangers constantly stop to say hello or take a photo, which can be weary.
"But I believe it's cool that people want to reach out and demonstrate their support," Carey said.
Jade Carey of Oregon State is greeted by coach Tanya Chaplin after competing in a balance beam as the Beavers gymnastics team takes on UCLA and UC Davis on Sunday, January 23, 2022. Photo by Leon Neuschwander for The Oregonian/OregonLiveLeon Neuschwander for The Oregonian/OregonLive
BEAVER IN LONG TIME
Carey has been in the Oregon State pipeline for nearly a decade, although she was 14 when she verbally committed to Chaplin as a high school freshman in 2014, then signed with Oregon State in 2017.
A camp coach for Oregon State discovered Carey at a regional development facility. Tanya Chaplin said he asked Michael if he'd look at one of his athletes, who was called Carey. He was stunned by Carey's power on the floor and the connection was immediately formed.
Carey is committed to becoming a college gymnast for years.
So I was always happy to be part of a team, growing up in a club.
Carey had her pick of several of the most well-known gymnastic colleges, but she chose OSU because of the coaches.
"I knew they would take care of me in a real good manner," she said.
Chaplin recalls attending "a quite clumsy and clumsy" Carey on an unofficial campus visit as a 14-year-old freshman. But Carey was somewhat bold when it came to the time of questions.
I didn't know exactly where she was at, Chaplin said. It was difficult to read. I know her dad kind of looked at her and said, Do you have a question for them? She replied, Yeah, when can I commit?
HOW IT STARTED
In a sense, Carey was destined to perform gymnastics. Her parents, Brian and Danielle, were former gymnasts. When Jade was born, her parents owned Arizona Gold, a gym in Glendale, Arizona.
She was basically in the gym continuously, playing, Brian Carey said. She was basically a trampoline, basically, with mountings all the way around it.
Jade Carey doesn't recall her brief early days in the gym, except "always having a good time" and being able to run around and flipping and do whatever she wants.
Jade was "amazing on things," according to Brian Carey. Gymnastics, given the family's dynamics and opportunities, seemed a natural fit. Yet, there were no expectations. Jade's older sister, Alexsis, tried gymnastics but decided she wanted to dance more. They enrolled Jade in a few gymnastics sessions. She loved it.
"You might tell it early on, but you didn't want to push her into trying to reach the next level," Brian Carey said.
It's one thing to have the skills, but the time commitment for gymnastics' highest levels isn't for everyone. Carey was never given the edge.
"It was always enjoyable to be in the gym, so I never thought of it like, "Oh, I have to go to the gym again?" Carey said.
Carey said she didn't have to make extreme sacrifices as some do to achieve their goals. In the beginning, she attended grade, middle, and high school just like her peers. However, during the holidays, Carey couldn't hang out with them as much as she wanted, but her father made sure she had a living outside of gymnastics.
"I feel like that's pretty rare today in gymnastics, in the elite level," Carey said. "My dad came up with a good schedule that fits me.... we made it work."
Carey became an Olympic gold medalist when she was 15 years old. In fact, she wasn't even on her radar. Despite the fact that she was a solid club gymnast, adept at putting physical qualities to the college. It wasn't until 2016, Carey's junior year in high school, that she decided to pursue the promotion to elite level gymnastics. The 2016 Olympics was a motivational slew.
Carey gained confidence when she was a regular at the 2017 World Gymnastics Championships. Soon, she was a USA Team regular. She won three golds at the 2018 Pan American Games and continued to have international success throughout the 2021 Olympics.
Carey graduated from Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale in 2018, but Chaplin facilitated her to postpone her Oregon State enrollment until the fall of 2020. It was extended until the fall of 2021, as a result of the epidemic. He then received a gold medal, and a reputation, as well as a record of a run at the 2024 Olympics.
Carey was determined to make college a part of her life, whether she won a gold medal or not.
I never thought about going to Oregon State, Carey said. I knew I would make it here soon, at some point.
The first week of each day for Jade and Brian on campus, but they decided to leave to train for and eventually compete in the Gold Over America tour.
"She was so excited to be here," Brian said.
Jade Carey of Oregon State will compete in a balance beam as the Beavers gymnastics team takes on UCLA and UC Davis on Sunday, January 23, 2022, at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis. Photo by Leon Neuschwander for The Oregonian/OregonLiveLeon Neuschwander for The Oregonian/OregonLive
STAR SHINES AT THE OREGON STATE
In the midst of his gymnastics season, Carey returned to Oregon State.
What a wonderful season it has been.
Carey has won 47 individual titles, and she's undefeated in all-around. She's scored 42 points of 9.9 or better, including three perfect 10s. The NCAA Seattle Regional's all-around score of 39.850 is a school record.
Brian enjoys most of Jade's Oregon State meets, but in an unfamiliar position. After he began coaching Jade at the age of 10, he has to become a fan. He often encounters his hands like a coach as he monitors her compete.
Jade said, "It's definitely strange for us both." "It's difficult for him to stand in the stands and watch."
Carey's ten-year career path is accelerated by recent NIL legislation. She's "grateful" for the NIL opportunities, which are handled by a business manager.
"Now I am able to make the best of both worlds and still be able to do both. Whereas previously, I would have had to choose," Carey said.
Carey has been designing a wide range of businesses, including apparel, beauty, health, and nutrition, according to her manager. She recently switched her OSU major to business, and has commercial partnerships with Reebok, Ritual (health) and Reformation.
Carey has an active social media presence, but her number of followers is relatively similar to those of some of the top influencers in college athletics. McWilliams said what matters to an advertiser is Carey's gold medal, which gives rise credibility.
"Jade is an incredible professional, kind, and inspiring person," McWilliams said.
The Olympic gold medal, which is still in secure storage for now, has perks beyond NIL opportunities. Carey has thrown out several first pitches at baseball and softball games, including a Arizona Diamondbacks game after the Olympics.
Carey said, "The day after she won gold, she came to the realization that she was changed.
"If I felt like everything I had ever done for had finally paid off," Carey said. "So many people knew my name. It was so different, but it was really nice to see all that love and support from so many."
Another Olympic bid, scheduled for Paris in 2024, is on the horizon. Carey recently announced that she'll pursue opportunities in elite gymnastics to prepare for a tour of Paris.
Which hasn't reshaped her plans at Oregon State.
"Right now, I'm committed to going back to school all four years," Carey said.
Chaplin's outlook is from year to year, but she believes combining Olympic dreams with college can be beneficial. Chaplin said since she's known Carey, college gymnastics "has always been at the forefront of where she wanted to be."
Carey would likely have to adjust her college schedule for the season, lowering the number of all-around competitions if she finishes up on the 2024 U.S. Olympic team.
Carey's freshman season starts at the beginning.
Carey has won gold for her country eight months ago and is now attempting to stand up on the podium for her school at the NCAAs. A friend of Florida's Trinity Thomas has been favored for the all-around championship, as she scored the highest score and average score during the regular season.
It's unfair to compare winning a college all-around to winning an Olympic gold medal. This latter is the gold standard, right?
When it comes to competing in the Olympics, "all eyes are on you, all over the place." In both events, however, there's pressure, which is quite a different.
It's just a lot more fun going out there and wanting to do well for your school, Carey said. I'm very grateful that I have been able to do both.
| |Nick Daschel | |