Missouri gymnast Blair Elmore takes routines to new heights

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:30 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Missouri freshman Blair Elmore performs at the balance beam during the Tiger's meet against Illinois.

COLUMBIA — Most women don't get noticed for their height if they're 5 feet 6 inches tall.

In fact, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control, that's just three inches taller than the average woman's height in the U.S.

But when you're among members of Missouri's gymnastics team, where the average height is just taller than 5 feet 2 inches, the long legs of 5-foot-6-inch freshman Blair Elmore stand out.

"I'm the tallest," Elmore said, as if this was nothing new to her, but also noting with a shy smile that being the tallest on the team is a little weird.

And that's no surprise, considering Elmore grew an astounding seven inches within the span of a year.

After undergoing elbow surgery in 2009, Elmore took off several months from gymnastics to recover. That's when the growth spurt happened.

"It was like she was not even the same gymnast," Elmore's mother, Becky Elmore, said.

According to a study published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, this quick growth is not uncommon in gymnasts. During training, elite female gymnasts may have "attenuated growth," followed by a period of "catch-up growth" when the gymnast reduces activity or stops competing, the study concluded.

And Blair Elmore's activity did decline — to the point where she couldn't even do a handstand.

"I would get these text messages from her, like, 'Can I please just do one handstand?'" Becky Elmore said. She had to decline this seemingly odd request.

So when Blair Elmore was recovered and ready for action, she not only had to get used to doing handstands again, she also had to adjust her routines to account for her additional seven inches.

"It was different on bars," Blair Elmore said. "I kept hitting the floor and the low bar."

While watching her daughter's frustration was difficult for Becky Elmore, sports — and the situations that come with them — are nothing the family can't handle.

Becky Elmore is a former cheerleader and diver, and her husband, Jimmy Elmore, a former football player. Their children are both college athletes, with Blair Elmore competing on the Missouri gymnastics team and her brother, senior Will Elmore, playing on the baseball team at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss.

"We adopted that love — we've loved sports since we were born," Blair Elmore said.

With that much sports experience in one family of four, sports is bound to become a big part of their lives.

"I don't remember a Mother's Day, a birthday, where we weren't doing something sports-related," Becky Elmore said.

"We've never really had a spring break," she said. The times the family has been to Disney World have been for gymnastics or baseball, Becky Elmore said. The family turns these situations into their vacations.

Although it can get hectic for the Elmores with baseball and gymnastics both happening in the spring, the family still finds ways to support each other. The parents take turns attending their children's sporting events, with Becky Elmore attending Will Elmore's baseball games and Jimmy Elmore attending Blair Elmore's gymnastics meet last week.

Miles apart, even the siblings show support.

"He (Will Elmore) bought himself and, like, 10 of his friends Mizzou gymnastics shirts," Blair Elmore said. 

And when Blair Elmore's parents asked her about missing her gymnastics banquet to see Will Elmore play his last weekend of baseball at Millsaps, Blair Elmore told them to absolutely go see him play, Becky Elmore said.

Through the conflicting sports schedules and overcoming injuries, "Blair became independent," Becky Elmore said.

After adjusting her routines, Blair Elmore has made it onto Missouri's official lineup twice and has exhibitioned in six meets. As Missouri prepares for the Southeastern Conference Championships on Saturday in Little Rock, Ark., she hopes to continue performing in front of a crowd.

All 5 feet 6 inches of her.

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