May 25, 1999
COLUMBUS, Ohio – While the NCAA competition has officially ended for the Ohio State men’s gymnastics team, the Buckeyes will send two members off to international competition over the summer. The All-American duo of Doug Stibel (Sr., Canton, Mich.) and Jamie Natalie (So., Hockessin, Del.) have their sights set on competing with and against the world’s best. Natalie is a member of the U.S. National Team and is slated to compete in Palma de Mallorca, Spain at the World University Games beginning on July 2, while Stibel hopes to make a spot on the prestigious Pan American Games team that competes in Winnipeg, Canada on July 23. The two have been training intensely for the competition with Ohio State head coach Miles Avery.
“These two meets are what are called ‘marker’ meets for the United States Gymnastics Federation,” said Avery. “We want to present a really good team for the United States to set ourselves up for doing well at the World Championships and later on down the road for the Olympics. We want to do well at these meets and will hopefully win both. It’s important that Doug and Jamie’s contribution to those wins helps the U.S. quite a bit. It is also a tremendous bonus for the Ohio State program to have two of our college athletes on such prestigious teams. Young guys see that Ohio State athletes are making major U.S. teams. It’s quite an accomplishment for Ohio State.”
Stibel and Natalie have stepped up the intensity of their workouts in preparation for the more demanding rigors of international competition. Neither, however, is overly concerned about the amount of pressure associated with the meets.
“The greatest pressure is on me, in trying to make myself better,” said Stibel. “I need to get more competitive and get up to the same level with the rest of the guys I’ll be competing with and against. I’ve been out of the national scene for about a year after breaking my back, so this summer is going to be about getting back in and showing myself, proving I’m one of the top guys.”
“I have been doing the same things to prepare,” Natalie said. “I’ve increased the number of routines I’ve been doing and to simulate actual competition, we’re bringing in some judges in the next week. It will be different competing for myself after competing all season for the team. Hopefully, though, it will prove to be a good experience.”
Avery expects the two to represent the United States well, hopefully resulting in a winning summer not only for the two Buckeyes, but for the country.
“My expectations for them is that they go out there and hit all of their routines and help the U.S. to a medal,” he said. “Individually, I don’t have any expectations for them other than that they prepare well, go there and do a great job, and help the United States.”
“It’s pretty cool to represent the United States,” Natalie said. “I’ve never been to a meet as big as this. The World University Games will be only the second time in my life that I’ve been out of the country, so I’m excited.”
The older Stibel, who has exhausted his collegiate eligibility but will remain at Ohio State to complete his degree in sport and leisure studies and continue training, looks at the tryouts for the Pan American Games as a measuring stick for the rest of the summer, and, perhaps, for the remainder of his career.
“Should I make the Pan Am Games Team, that will be a measuring stick for me,” Stibel said. “That will be the first international competition and will show me where I am compared to everyone else. Now that I’m done with my collegiate career, I have more time to train and have fewer restrictions that were imposed by the NCAA. It’s going to be a little harder because I’m not training with the team now, but, on the other hand, it’s also good because I have more one-on-one coaching, which is much more beneficial.”
Stibel and Natalie head to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., in early June to participate in training camps that will take them into the summer competition.