Peter Vidmar led the 1984 United States Olympic men’s gymnastics team to a glorious upset victory over reining champions from the People’s Republic of China. He credits the traditions of discipline and hard work passed down by his Redd family progenitors for helping him achieve what seemed impossible: a gold medal and perfect score of 10.0 on pommel horse; a silver medal in the all-around competition (the first U.S. male to win one); and, of course, the team gold medal for the gymnastics team he captained.
Vidmar, who went on to become one of the top motivational speakers in the U.S., will be the keynote speaker for the Redd Family Reunion on July 25, 2015. He plans to talk about his family’s heritage and how it influenced him. He’ll also share life lessons drawn from his development as an athlete. Vidmar said he is looking forward to meeting many of his relatives.
A Proud Heritage
“My dad, John Redd Vidmar, is very, very proud of his Redd heritage and has always spoken with great reverence of his forefathers and ancestors,” Vidmar said. “Because of that, I have great respect for my Redd family line.”
John Redd Vidmar, Peter’s father, is a son of John Vidmar and Hazel Lurena Redd Vidmar, daughter of Lemuel Hardison Redd Sr. and Sariah Louisa Chamberlain. John Vidmar and Hazel Redd both grew up in the Mormon colonies of Mexico. An orphan, John Vidmar set his sights on marrying one of the Redd girls. He succeeded, marrying Lem Redd’s youngest daughter while on a break from his mining career in Chile. After spending more years in Chile, the couple settled in Long Beach, Calif., where their son, John Redd Vidmar (Peter’s father), grew up.
“Grandpa Vidmar worked very hard, with Hazel by his side all those years. Coming from that hardy stock, there is a tradition of discipline in my roots — hard work and industriousness,” Vidmar said.
Vidmar’s father set an example of overcoming adversity that was especially inspiring. John Redd Vidmar contracted polio at age 29, well before Peter Vidmar was born. An ancestral heritage of hard work helped Peter’s father get through life despite physical limitations. He didn’t let polio stop him from achieving a successful career in manufacturing and raising a family. Now 93, John Redd Vidmar suffers from post-polio syndrome and regrets that he won’t be able to make the trip from California to attend the reunion, Peter Vidmar said.
“I learned from my father that whatever the circumstance, you don’t complain and you don’t give up,” Vidmar said. “As a kid, when I went to the gym and had some pretty hard workouts, I knew I had to go home to that guy. It helped me get through things.”
After the Olympics
Achieving world fame at a young age came with the challenge of figuring out what would come next after his final Olympic dismount. His parents’ teachings helped Vidmar moved smoothly into a meaningful life. By the time of the 1984 Olympics, he was already married to gymnast Donna Harris, whom he met while attending UCLA and baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He graduated from UCLA, became a gymnastics anchor for CBS and ESPN and developed a highly successful career as a motivational speaker.
These days, much of Vidmar’s time is spent in giving back to the sport that gave so much to him. He holds volunteer positions as Chairman of the Board of USA Gymnastics, the national governing body of gymnastics in the U.S. He also serves on the executive committee of the International Gymnastics Federation and has served as a U.S. Olympic Ambassador. His volunteer work to advance the field of gymnastics keeps him busy with international travel.
“The most overwhelming emotion I felt when I was on the victory stand was gratitude,” Vidmar said. “I was really grateful to everyone that helped me. I realized that it is a very large team effort to accomplish those things. The volunteer work I do now is a way to say thanks.”
Family and faith first
When asked what his Olympic medals mean to him, Vidmar noted that his life as an Olympian was over 30 years ago now. Though he appreciates the lessons he learned, he doesn’t dwell on his early days of glory. The five children he and Donna brought up are what matter most to him.
“We love watching our kids’ lives unfold with their careers and families,” Vidmar said. That’s the exciting part of this stage of our lives.”
The Vidmars are empty-nesters now. Three sons and one daughter are established in careers — daughter Kathryn’s as an assistant track coach at BYU. Youngest daughter Emily attends BYU, where she is a member of the gymnastics team.
“Our children work very hard and have good careers,” Vidmar said. “We’re very proud of them.”
The three Vidmar sons served LDS missions, and Peter and Donna Vidmar have done church service throughout their lives, too. The couple hopes to serve a mission together after he finishes his volunteer work in the gymnastics world.
Connecting sport and life
Physical activity is still important to Vidmar, even though his gymnast days are in the past. He competes in grueling Iron Man Triathlons with his sons, which requires diligent training as a bicyclist, runner and swimmer. A motto he adopted in his youth helps — in sport and in life:
“‘Practice as if its a competition and compete as if it is practice,’” Vidmar said. “That means every day matters, not just the day of competition. If you give an average effort, you’ll have an average result. Giving an all-out effort will lead to a great result. A terrific coach taught me some really important life lessons, and I’ll share more about that at the reunion.”