Laura-Ann Chong, former gymnast, top scholar and three-time Pac-10 All Academic selection for the Beavers was recently chosen as Oregon State University’s NASPE (National Association for Sport and Physical Education) Outstanding Major of the Year. The award is given by the largest association in the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD), an honor that brings pride to Beaver Nation and lands Laura-Ann a seat at the AAHPERD Convention in San Diego, where the national Major of the Year will be awarded.
“I am honored to be nominated by my professors,” says Laura-Ann. “I started to think about things outside of the gym a couple years ago and really looked at the work and activities of my former teammates, D’Anna (Piro) and Yuki (Lamb), and saw them as role models. It means a lot to me to be considered in the same light.” The requirements at OSU to be considered for the NASPE Outstanding Major of the Year are a minimum of a 3.25 overall GPA with at least 120 credits with at least three additional service projects outside of their required classes.
Laura-Ann is majoring in exercise and sport science (now kinesiology) and working on minors in psychology and public health with aspirations of returning to her home country of Canada to become a physiotherapist.
In his nomination, Professor Brad Cardinal, notes her devotion to her passions as a student assistant coach for the gymnastics team and her position of vice president of OSU’s Pre-Therapy Allied Health Club, merely two markers of dedication on a rather lengthy rap sheet of self appointed endeavors Chong has elected in pursuit of her childhood goals.
“Besides looking for leadership from my former Oregon State teammates, the two main people I have always looked to for motivation are my mom and dad.,” she says. Together, they always could see what was best for me, even if I was stuck in a cloud at the time. They knew that my academics were just as important as my gymnastics, and never let me forget that. I’ve never felt pressure from my parents to achieve something that I didn’t want 100%, and they’ve always known what my goals were growing up; To go to the 2004 Olympics, to receive a full-ride scholarship to the United States for gymnastics, and to become a physical therapist. They’ve never discouraged me from anything I wanted to pursue, even if it means fighting through some difficult times,” Laura added.
When asked about her motivation to enter the field of physiotherapy, Laura-Ann answers with the humor of a bumped and bruised athlete. “I’ve definitely had my share of visits to physio!” Having discovered her passion for gymnastics at the tender age of two, she quickly became enchanted with the mechanics of the body and the art of rehabilitation.
“I think I just became fascinated with healing the human body and learning how exercises can enhance physical functioning. I also earned great respect for my phsyio(therapist) when I was competing because, without him, there is no way I would have been able to return to gymnastics, especially not to the level I wanted to be competing. I want to return the favor and give athletes and other individuals their lives back and allow them to be healthy and do activities that they cherish most in life.”
Outside of gymnastics, Laura-Ann has worked hard to develop a diverse group of friends, a sideline powerhouse of motivation and support, to which she attributes much of what keeps her grounded off the mat.
“I tend to surround myself with people that bring joy and laughter to my life. My friends consist of various personalities, many of them come from gymnastics clubs around the country, and the world. I’m always accepting of the different cultures each of them bring with them to college and love hearing about their previous victories and backgrounds. Each of them has taught me so much and they always challenge me to expand my perspectives.”
“Laura-Ann is an enthusiastic and committed learner,” Brad said. “She exemplifies the ideals set forth by the OSU gymnastics program. Under the direction of head coach Tanya Champlin, the gymnastics program has a strong history and tradition of promoting and encouraging academic excellence as well as service to others. Her personality is upbeat and positive and I predict that she will be a real difference-maker in her field of choice.”
In rounding out her fifth, and final year as a black and orange undergrad, the Coquitlam, B.C. native will leave Corvallis as a four-year letter winner for OSU, a second-team All-American honor on the balance beam, a Pac-10 Champion on the beam, the title of the NCAA Regional Champion on the bars, and the honor of being named first-team All-Pac-10 on bars and beam in 2010. However, perhaps her most underplayed achievement yet, Laura-Ann will also graduate as a three-time Pac-10 All-Academic selection.
After graduation, Laura-Ann plans to join Beavers without Borders, a new program that provides opportunities for international service. “I love traveling and I think experiencing different cultures is so essential in building your overall self-identity.”
Laura-Ann plans to return to her native Canada and work with athletes and major sports teams, setting the bar high for herself with the goal of one day working with the Canadian Olympic team. Her perseverance, passion and determination will undoubtedly assure this success.
– By Amanda Grisham
-Photos by Stoddard Reynolds