Many people around the globe are looking forward to the 2016 Summer Olympics this year in Rio. I always watched the Olympics growing up. I loved the sport of gymnastics. I always felt it was such a graceful, powerful, and daring sport. Recently, through the amazing community, I met another stepmom who loved gymnastics and was looking forward to the summer Olympics as well. In fact, she is currently on her “Road to Rio.” And by “Road to Rio,” she has not booked her summer vacation. This stepmom is chasing her dreams in the hopes of actually making it to compete in this year’s Olympic games.
Houry Gebeshian is an elite gymnast, physician assistant, coach, and stepmom. She is aiming to make history by becoming the first female gymnast to compete at the Olympics for the Republic of Armenia. Born and raised just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, Houry’s parents divorced when she was just six years old. She and her older sister lived with their Mother. The family moved often, which made the gym she grew up in feel like more of a home than any house she ever lived in.
Like many divorced families, Houry’s parents did not (and still do not, she mentions) get along. “I remember a lot of hate and pain growing up. However, looking back, I know that those experiences help me now as an adult. I have a firsthand experience of what it is like to be a child of divorced parents that couldn’t get along – even for their kids,” Houry remembers. She speaks of how the negative experiences of her childhood have helped her in working with her blended family to ensure that her stepson never has to feel the way she felt.
Houry began gymnastics at the age of five. “I think every little gymnast has a very similar story about being an active child. My Mother loves to tell the story of how I used to somehow wiggle myself out of my car seat,” recalls Houry. At the time, the family lived near the Massachusetts Gymnastics Center, (which became her home gym) and she began taking gymnastics classes. The coaches soon recognized her talent and picked her to join the competitive team. When Houry began competing in gymnastics, the gym became her home away from home.
“Growing up, I learned that you have to earn everything that you want. Things are not just given to you.” – Houry Gebeshian
When Houry was in High School, her Father told her that gymnastics was becoming too expensive and that he was no longer going to pay for it anymore. Her Mother also could not afford to pay for it, so she began coaching. She would coach 20 hours per week, while also training 20 hours per week. When she says the gym became home, it really did. She was spending more time in the gym then she was at home.
What Houry didn’t realize at the time, was that her hard work in the gym and the sacrifices she made, it was preparing her for her adult life. Houry currently works as a full time physician’s assistant for the Cleveland Clinic in the Department of Surgery on the Labor and Delivery Floor. On top of working full time as a PA, she is also training (and coaching) for the 2016 Summer Olympics. “Unfortunately, the Armenian Gymnastics Federation is terribly underfunded and cannot support a women’s team. This is why I coach and fund myself,” explains Houry.
Her career in gymnastics has been very successful. In High School, she earned multiple State Championships, Regional Championships, and made National Championship appearances. In 2007, she was recruited to compete for the University of Iowa. “My greatest athletic accomplishment in college was becoming the 2010 Big Ten Champion on the balance beam,” Houry says proudly. Following her collegiate career, she made her first attempt at the Olympics by attempting to qualify for the Summer 2012 games. Sadly, due to an injury, she missed making the games by one spot. It was then that she quit gymnastics to pursue her career in medicine, although did not stay away for long.
Her boyfriend at the time (who is now her fiance) was the one who encouraged her to pursue her dreams in gymnastics again. After taking a three year break, she decided to give it another shot. Returning to the sport at 25, she is considered an “old lady” (her words, not mine!) in gymnastics. She speaks of how most girls “peak” around the age of 16 in the sport. She is having to compete against girls a decade younger.
In her first competition back after her three year break, she qualified into the finals of the 2015 European Championships. Last fall, at the 2015 World Championships, she qualified for the Olympic Test Event, which will be held in Brazil next month. The test event serves as the final qualification round for the Summer Olympic Games.
“So, here I am, one competition away from walking out at the opening ceremony of the Olympics.” – Houry Gebeshian
While her gymnastics accomplishments are something she is (and should be) very proud of, Houry also has another rewarding role in life – “STEPMOM.” While her husband is not quite her husband yet (she and fiance, Duane have put the wedding off until 2017 due to the Olympics), they are committed to each other in every way. Houry and Duane believe that although they are not legally married yet, it does not change anything in terms of how they view themselves as a family.
Houry remembers the story of how she and Duane met as being very surreal. Growing up, her idol in the sport of gymnastics was Dominique Moceanu. At the World Gymnastics Championships in 2011 (the year of her injury), she was lucky enough to meet both Dominque and her husband. Dominique’s husband is a physician and offered that she spend a month learning from him at his practice, as she was going to be attending physician assistant school the next year. She took him up on the offer and rotated at his practice as a student. One of the residents at the time was Duane. Duane was in charge of teaching Houry everything she needed to learn in that month. Throughout her time at the practice, things remained professional, but after she left they decided to stay in touch. With Houry living in Winston-Salem, NC at the time and Duane living in Cleveland, OH, they engaged in a long distance relationship and saw each other once a month.
Duane has a 4-year old son. His son lives 250 miles away with his Mother and Step Dad. Due to the distance, Duane and Houry only get to see Duane’s son on an every-other-weekend basis. “The most challenging and stressful part of my life isn’t my career, my athletic dreams, being my own coach, or finding the funds to pay for all of my expenses associated with getting to the Olympics. It is trying to work with Duane’s ex-wife to create a cohesive, coexisting family that supports our 4-year old“ tells Houry, honestly. Life many other stepmoms, Houry’s stepson’s Mother is not very accepting of her. While she tries hard to always be respectful and build her up emotionally, everything still seems to be a struggle in their situation. Houry talks about how her stepson’s Mother turns things negative, when all she is trying to do, like all of us stepmoms try to do, is be involved in our step children’s lives.
A child from divorce, Houry knows what it is like to have two parents that hate each other. She is trying hard in her own blended family to break down that barrier and have everyone be mature in the situation and more importantly, be loving parents to her stepson that deserves the love all four of his parents can offer. After all, a child can never have too many people that love them. Although things are not always easy, Houry is an advocate for her family and is dedicated toward working toward healthier relationships within their blended family.
With one more competition to go – The Olympic Test Event in April, which will tell whether she has earned a spot in the Olympic Games in Rio this summer, Houry stays “chugging along” – training, working, traveling, playing, and promoting her journey.
Follow Houry on her journey to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio:
Facebook: Houry Gebeshian Armenian Gymnast
YouTube: Houry Gebeshian
Houry is funding herself on this incredible journey. Stepmoms supporting stepmoms is a community that gives strength, hope and support to one another. If you are interested in donating to help fund her journey to the Olympics, please visit: Hooting for Houry