The public address announcer read Guillermo Alvarez’s name as the next competitor on the floor exercise during the men’s gymnastics meet last Saturday night against Oklahoma.
The crowd and his teammates yelled, “Go G-mo,” as he raised his right arm to acknowledge the judges and begin his routine.
Alvarez flipped, tumbled and twisted his way to a first-place finish on the floor exercise. He also claimed top honors on the pommel horse and took second place in the all-around competition – helping Minnesota to its best team score of the season.
With little fanfare or celebration, the modest Alvarez quietly earns respect with his strong performances.
“I think he’s a little too humble at times,” coach Fred Roethlisberger said. “He views himself as being average.”
Alvarez is anything but the average gymnast.
In his first year at Minnesota, Alvarez earned a spot on the All-Big Ten team, was named Big Ten freshman of the year, qualified for the NCAA meet and earned All-America honors.
This season, Alvarez took fourth place in the all-around competition at the Winter Cup in Las Vegas. Alvarez has also claimed seven individual event titles this season and one all-around title.
Alvarez has trained hard at his gymnastics since he started learning cartwheels at age 9. His coaches and parents saw his potential when he was very young.
At his home gym, Gymnastika, Inc., in Wheatridge, Colo., Alvarez trained in a disciplined and knowledgeable environment.
“Part of his success comes from the way he trained,” said Alvarez’s mother, Janet. “He was taught the proper techniques from the very beginning.”
Alvarez received a lot of motivation from his parents and he also got encouragement from his coach, Alexei Koudria.
When Alvarez struggled with a skill or thought he didn’t want to do gymnastics anymore, Koudria kept pushing him to continue.
Under Koudria’s tutelage, Alvarez was a two-time participant in the U.S. National Championships, a five-time competitor at the Junior Nationals and participated twice in the Winter Cup.
“Alexei was always telling me, ‘You’re going to do good things,’ and I never really believed him,” Alvarez said. “It feels pretty good knowing he was right.”
Before coming to the 2001 Junior Nationals in Minneapolis, Alvarez had made up his mind to attend the University of Colorado and continue training with Koudria. Going to college for gymnastics had never really entered his mind.
But a fourth-place finish at Junior Nationals put Alvarez on the radar for Roethlisberger. He offered Alvarez a scholarship and after some convincing, he accepted.
Alvarez wasn’t envisioning the success he’s enjoyed; he just wanted to keep doing gymnastics and was happy to take advantage of the opportunity before him.
“I really enjoy being in the gym all the time and learning new stuff,” Alvarez said.
Roethlisberger said Alvarez is a natural in the air, twisting and flipping with ease. And if it doesn’t come naturally to him, Alvarez is willing to put in the work to learn something new. He works with diligence to attend to all the details gymnastics requires.
The only thing holding Alvarez back is his humble attitude. Roethlisberger thinks a more assertive Alvarez would accomplish more of his goals in the gym.
If he hopes to win events at the Big Ten meet and place at the NCAA meet, Alvarez must find something like Koudria’s encouraging words to keep pushing him.
“He was always the one in the gym telling me, ‘You can do this skill,’ or, ‘You can place this high at nationals,’ ” Alvarez said.
His modest demeanor has kept Alvarez working hard in the gym. His continual effort has allowed Alvarez to do everything he has achieved, accomplishing it all without making it a big deal.