FARGO — Robin Huebner would someday like to attend the Summer Olympics as a fan, with her daughter, just to get a taste of the world’s largest sporting spectacle. It might make up, at least a little, for coming up short of her own Olympic dream.
“I never got that experience as an athlete and I wanted it so bad,” she said. “It’s 40 years ago and I still feel that way. I wanted it so bad. More than anything.”
Forty years ago, in the summer of 1976, Huebner competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials in gymnastics in Los Angeles. She was trying to become one of seven women who qualifed (or were chosen) for the American team that would compete in the Games in Montreal.
She came up short, finishing 15th in the all-around.
Robin is a news anchor for WDAY-TV Channel 6 and a reporter for The Forum. She’s been a longtime TV personality in Fargo-Moorhead. She joins my radio program on 970 WDAY every Tuesday at 9 a.m., mainly just to shoot the breeze and laugh.
This week’s chat went down the Olympics road. I knew Robin was an elite gymnast in her competitive days — she competed at the University of Minnesota — but didn’t know she was in the Trials. She made mention of it on Facebook over the weekend and I asked her about it today.
Here is the conversation:
It was particularly disappointing to not make the team, she said, because she was coming off an all-around title in the USA Championships just a few weeks before.
“Things were looking pretty good for me,” she said. “It was kind of a combination of things. A few tiny mistakes. Also, I think some of the powers-that-be — and I learned this on the backside — wanted an all-really experienced team and I was 14 at the time.”
In other words, Robin learned, the selection process for the Olympic team wasn’t objective. The coach and leaders of USA Gymnastics had the final say on who made the team. It remains that way today; USA team coordinator Marta Karolyi has the last word on who makes the squad. Karolyi selected the five members of Team USA after last weekend’s Trials in San Jose, Calif.
“There were so many factors” why she didn’t compete well, Huebner said. “I wasn’t gelling with my coach like we once did … It was just complicated.”
That was her last chance at making the Olympic team, although she went on to a stellar career at Minnesota. The Dickinson, N.D., native finished fifth in the all-around in the 1982 AIAW Division I championships (the precursor to the NCAA for women’s athletics) and placed 24th in the 1983 NCAA championships.
Huebner was named the U of M’s Female Athlete of the Year in 1983.
Here is some YouTube video of Robin in the 1977 Champions All competition in which she finished third. Watch it all the way through for her interview with legendary ABC broadcaster Jim McKay, when McKay asks her how she got into gymnastics: