After claiming Olympic gold, Oregon State gymnast Jade Carey had a hampered pursuit of a college degree

After claiming Olympic gold, Oregon State gymnast Jade Carey had a hampered pursuit of a college deg ...

Update:

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 journey of their lives. Many were accomplished high school athletes, perhaps all-state, even nationally acclaimed, like a 5-star recruit or McDonald's All-American.

Forty-five percent of college athletics are locally recognized, but they don't draw attention beyond. Outside of an exception like Tiger Woods, a household name when he was at Stanford in 1994, college athletics is the next big thing.

Carey, who turns 22 in May, has been named a five-time U.S. national team member, the in floor exercise, and the first U.S. Olympian to compete for OSU gymnastics. Take a look at her, remembering her achievements, including a prominent payday performing in the Gold Over America Tour last fall.

Carey secured a solid start to the season, putting numerous Oregon State records on the way to winning the Pac-12's all-around championship in March. Wednesday, the Beavers will host the NCAA Championship in Fort Worth, Texas (10 a.m., ESPN2).

Carey's intention was to make a quiet and smooth transition from gold medal winner to college athlete.

I knew people were probably going to know who I was, especially after the Olympics, she said. I was just excited to start a new chapter of my life and be able to fit in.

Carey was once again on campus from the USA gymnastics tour in November, but she was simply one of the women on the OSU team. Oregon State coach Tanya Chaplin said Carey never anticipated anything other because of her accomplishments. Carey wanted to do these drills as well.

But with some of the athletes, that doesn't always happen, Chaplin said. So that has been incredible.

Madi Dagen, a senior gymnast among 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."

Dagen, who has known Carey since his high school, said the 2021 Olympic gold medalist has embraced every aspect of college life. It's a lock in the back of Carey's closet.

Dagen said she's been super open-minded about how everything would go. "Just kind of fit in. It's been fun, it's been normal, and it's felt right."

According to Carey's father, Brian, "I don't think she walked with the attitude that 'I'm a footballer." She walked in like, 'I get to become a part of this team.'... She just loves going with that team."

Chaplin said that coaching Carey has been smooth, and that her presence has been positive for her teammates. Carey performs certain skills with precision, and that, according to Chaplin, it has caused teammates to move to a new level.

Carey's appearance while in the air, the way she's able to create a move once she's left the floor, vault, bars, or beam, is "like no other." Chaplin said Carey's sense while in the air is compared to those she's capable of making a move.

"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 Oregon State residents are as well known as Carey, even though she is 5-foot-1. Carey admitted that strangers often stop to say hello or take a picture, which may be hampered.

"But I think it's really nice to see people reach out and show their support," Carey said.

Jade Carey of Oregon State receives a hug from coach Tanya Chaplin after competing in a balance beam at the Gill Coliseum in Corvallis. Photo by Leon Neuschwander for The Oregonian/OregonLiveLeon Neuschwander for The Oregonian/OregonLive

BEAVER OF A LONG TIME

Carey has been in the Oregon State pipeline for nearly a decade, although she sat 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 camp. Tanya Chaplin said he talked with Michael if he'd look at one of his competitors, who was also Carey. He was shocked by Carey's power on the floor, and a connection was immediately formed.

Carey was looking forward to becoming a college gymnast for years.

"So I was always impressed by my growing up in the club." "So I was really excited to be a part of a team."

Carey was chosen for several prestige gymnastic colleges, but was influenced by the coaches.

"I knew they would take care of me in a really excellent manner," she said.

Chaplin recalled coming to us for an unofficial visit on campus as a 14-year-old freshman. However, Carey was quite adamant when it came time for questions.

I didn't know exactly where she was, Chaplin said. It was difficult to understand. I know her father kind of looked at her and said, 'Do you have a question for them?' She said, 'Yeah, when can I commit?'

HOW IT WAS RELATED

Carey was drawn to gymnastics in a sense. Her parents, Brian and Danielle, were former gymnasts. When Jade was born, her parents owned Arizona Gold, a gym in Glendale, Arizona.

"Her playpen was a trampoline, basically, with mountings all the way around it," Brian Carey said. "She was basically in the gym all the time, playing."

Jade Carey lacks insight on her early days in the gym, except "always having a good time and being able to run and flip, and do whatever she wanted."

Jade was "adamantly athletic and constantly climbing on things," according to Brian Carey. Gymnastics, given the family's dynamics and opportunities, seemed a natural fit. However, there were no expectations. Jade's older sister, Alexsis, tried gymnastics, but decided she would perform more. The Careys enrolled Jade in a few gymnastics classes. She loved it.

"You might tell that early on, but you didn't want to push her away into getting to the next level," Brian Carey said.

It's one thing to have the skill, but it's still important to keep an eye on gymnastics' highest levels. Jade Carey's role has never been weighed on him.

"It's always been a pleasure to be in the gym, therefore I never thought about it like, "Oh, I have to go to the gym again?" said Carey.

Carey said she didn't have to make huge sacrifices like others to accomplish their goals. At the same time, she attended grade, middle, and high school just like her friends. However, there were times when Carey couldn't get out with them as much as she wanted, but her father made sure she had a life outside of gymnastics.

I feel like its pretty rare nowadays in gymnastics, in the elite level, Carey said. My dad developed a decent schedule that fit for me.... we made that work.

Carey was not on track to become an Olympic gold medalist when she was in high school. Rather, she was a strong club gymnast, who had the physical abilities of a college gymnast. It wasn't until 2016, Carey's junior year in high school, that she began promoting elite level gymnastics. The 2016 Olympics was a creative show.

Carey gained confidence when she was a regular in the 2017 World Gymnastics Championships. Soon, she was a USA Team regular. She won three golds at the 2018 Pan American Games before continuing to have international success throughout the 2021 Olympics.

Carey graduated from Glendale in 2018, but Chaplin assisted her deferred her Oregon State enrollment until the fall of 2020. It was extended until the fall of 2021, after the Olympics were postponed a year due to the epidemic. Then came a gold medal, and a reputation, as well as the projection of a run at the 2024 Olympics.

Carey was always determined to make college a part of her life, whether she is a gold medal or not.

Carey said he never thought about going to Oregon State. "I knew I would make it here eventually, at some point."

After a week on campus, Jade and Brian came together to set up the house, hoping to build the house. After a week on campus, Jade came to enroll and eventually compete in the Gold Over America tour.

"She was so pleased to be able to go again," Brian said.

Jade Carey of Oregon State plays in a balance beam as the Beavers gymnastics team takes on UCLA and UC Davis on Sunday, January 23, 2022, at the Gill Coliseum in Corvallis. Photo by Leon Neuschwander for The Oregonian/OregonLiveLeon Neuschwander for The Oregonian/OregonLive

AT OREGON STATE, STAR SHINES

Carey was returning to Oregon State in time to begin the gymnastics season.

What a different season has been.

Carey has won 47 individual titles and is undefeated in all-around. She's scored 42 points of 9.9 or better, including three excellent 10s. The NCAA Seattle Regional's all-around score of 39.850 is a school record.

Brian attends most of Jade's Oregon State meet, but in an unfamiliar role. After he began coaching Jade when she was 10, he has had to become a fan. He said as a result of his daughter's efforts, he often finds himself waving his hands like a coach.

Jade said that Its certainly odd for us both. Its difficult for him to sit down in the stands and watch.

Carey's graduation date is ten years off financially owing to recent NIL legislation. She said she's "grateful" for the NIL opportunities, which are handled by a business manager.

"Now I am able to get the best of both worlds and still be able to do both." Carey added that while before, I'd have to choose.

Carey is collaborating with Reebok, Ritual, and Reformation in addition to the post-OIympics national exhibition exhibition.

Carey has an active social media presence, but her number of followers is small compared to some of the top influencers in college athletics. McWilliams said what matters to an advertiser is Carey's gold medal, as it brings credibility.

"Jade is a hugely motivated, kind, and passionate person, and I believe that is ultimately what drives them to engage in business opportunities," said McWilliams.

The Olympic gold medal, which is still in secure storage for now, has extra benefit than NIL opportunities. Carey has dropped several first pitches at baseball and softball games, including an Arizona Diamondbacks game following the Olympics.

Carey said that the day after winning gold, she woke up feeling different.

It was unbelievable to see all of my passion and support from so many people, Carey said. So many people knew my name. It was so different, but it was really nice to see all of my gratitude and support.

Another Olympics bid, which will take place in Paris in 2024, is on the way. Carey recently announced that she'll pursue opportunities in elite gymnastics to prepare for a tour to Paris.

Which does not alter her intentions in Oregon State.

Right now, I'm confident in having my time here for all four years, Carey said.

Chaplin's life spans year to year, but she believes incorporating Olympic dreams into college is possible. Chaplin said that since she's known Carey, college gymnastics "has always been at the forefront of her quest."

Carey may be forced to tweak her college schedule for that season, reducing the number of all-around events if she retires from the 2024 Olympic team.

Carey's freshman season is coming to an end.

Carey now has to compete on the NCAA championships eight months after she won gold for her country. Aside from the co-favored Florida's Trinity Thomas, Carey has advanced to the top spot. During the regular season, she scored the highest score and average score.

It's unfair to imply that a college is all-around equal to winning an Olympic gold medal. That's the gold standard.

When it comes to the Olympics, "all eyes are on you, all over the place," Carey said. Both events are a bit different.

It's just a lot more fun going out there and wanting to do well for your school, Carey said. I'm very pleased that I have been able to do both."

--Nick Daschel | |

You may also like: