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Umphrey Thankful for Many

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Olympian Notes Others’ Sacrifices


To the list of tonight’s Albuquerque/New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame inductees, add the following:

n Albert and Martha Umphrey, parents.

n Greg, Edward, Frances, Maria and Natalie Umphrey, brothers and sisters.

n Art Shurlock, UCLA gymnastics coach.

n Vince Cordova, counselor at Albuquerque Academy.

n Mike Sanders, college and medical-school roommate.

n Ralph Armstrong, best friend.

n William Kuh, Tony Esquivel, Lin Gatewood and Alan Vraspir, Albuquerque Academy teachers.

Fear not, if you’re planning to attend tonight’s Hall of Fame banquet at the Marriott Pyramid you needn’t bring a sleeping bag. Only the four official inductees will speak.

Albuquerque/New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame banquet, Marriott Pyramid
No longer available

Chances are, though, that all the above people will be mentioned.

Without them, Chainey Umphrey explains, neither his brilliant gymnastics career nor his outstanding medical career would have happened.

Nor, he said, would he have been selected for induction into the Hall of Fame. They are, in his mind, as deserving of the honor as he is.

“I don’t think this award has anything to do with me but everything to do with everybody who got me here,” says Umphrey, 39, an Albuquerque native who represented the United States in the 1996 Olympics and around the world during a 23-year gymnastics career.

Tonight, Umphrey will join Pervis Atkins, Terance Mathis and Duane Ward as inductees into the Hall of Fame.

“It’s kind of a weird sensation,” Umphrey says of the phone call that informed him he had been chosen for induction. “You’d think you’d just be jumping out of your seat, and I kind of was. But I really think it made me a little bit more retrospective.

“It gave me a chance to look back for a moment and go, ‘Wow, that was just an amazing journey — 20-plus years of my life.'”

The journey began when, at age 7, Umphrey was encouraged to take up gymnastics by a ballet teacher. By the time Umphrey retired in 2000, he’d won scores of medals in all manner of national and international competitions — and broken almost that many bones.

There was heartbreak, as well as success,  along the way. In 1992, after having fractured and dislocated a foot the previous year, he missed qualifying for the Barcelona Olympics by eight-hundredths of a point.

Even his greatest triumph, qualifying for the 1996 Olympics, was marred when the U.S. coaching staff chose to pull the Albuquerque native from the all-around competition at Atlanta.

Would Umphrey change anything?

“Hey,” he says, laughing, “if I could take a couple of the fractures and breaks out of there, I would.”

Yet, he adds, even those helped lead him to the place he occupies today: a specialist in sports medicine and spine care for Kaiser-Permanente Medical Group in San Jose, Calif.

“All the things I practice,” he says, “even the rehab portion, is exactly what I was doing in gymnastics — dealing with injuries. That’s just the way it was in gymnastics; if you weren’t injured, your buddy was.”

The long and eventful journey wouldn’t have been possible, Umphrey says, without the sacrifice and dedication of his parents.

For years, Albert and Martha Umphrey crisscrossed the United States, ferrying Chainey and his younger brother Greg to gymnastics meets. Both Chainey and Greg were All-Americans at UCLA. Both are now physicians in similar specialties.

“We used to have a Transvan (motor home),” Chainey says. “We had breakfast, sometimes lunch and most of the time dinner in the car. They were trying to do all this on a teacher’s salary, and, as you can imagine, that doesn’t go very far.

“So, just lots and lots of sacrifice. Just lots of good people around me.”



Albuquerque Hall of Fame inductees

Pervis Atkins
New Mexico State football All-American, 1960; national all-purpose yardage leader, 1959-60. Led NMSU to undefeated season and Sun Bowl victory in 1960. Played for Los Angeles Rams (1961-63), Washington Redskins (1964-65), Oakland Raiders (1965-66).

Terance Mathis
UNM football All-American, 1987 and 1989. First collegiate player to have more than 250 receptions, 4,000 receiving yards and 6,000 all-purpose yards. Played for New York Jets (1990-93), Atlanta Falcons (1994-2001), Pittsburgh Steelers (2002). Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection in 1994, when he caught a Falcons-record 111 passes.

Chainey Umphrey
Olympic (1996), World Championships, Goodwill Games and All-America gymnast (UCLA). National champion in high bar, 1993. Member, USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame. Albuquerque native and Albuquerque Academy graduate.

Duane Ward
Major League pitcher who went 3-0 with two saves in two World Series for the Toronto Blue Jays. Winning pitcher in the decisive Game 6 of the 1993 Series. An American League All-Star in 1993. Played 10 years in the majors (Atlanta, Toronto). Led Farmington High School to a Class 4A state basketball title in 1982.



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