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Cathy Rigby: Where it All Started for our Director

Updated: Oct 8, 2019

Cathy Rigby on the beam in Sports Illustrated
Photo credit: Phillip Leonian | Sports Illustrated

Cathy Rigby as photographed for the cover of Life Magazine
Photo credit: John Dominis | Life Magazine

Cathy Rigby Mason's autograph in female director Amy Moran Compton's autograph book
Cathy Rigby's autograph in Amy's epic autograph book

This is where it all started for Amy, the director of Flipping Out. She had been a gymnast for a couple of years at the time she got Cathy Rigby's autograph and took the Polaroids below. It was in this moment that the real lighting of her gymnastics fire happened -- when she got to meet her first gymnastics hero: Cathy Rigby. She's shown in the photo sitting on Cathy's lap alongside her friend and Flairs teammate named Lorraine, whose dad had a connection at the studio where Cathy was shooting a commercial. Amy couldn't believe that she got to meet, speak with, and be on set with such a legend. The encounter made becoming an Olympic gymnast seem all the more palpable.

Cathy Rigby and female director Amy Moran Compton on the set of a commercial
Left: Cathy Rigby on commercial set / Right: Flairs gymnasts Lorraine and Amy with Cathy Rigby

Notice the leotards that Lorraine and Amy are wearing in the photo - with the Misha Bear from the 1980 Russia Olympics. We're guessing the leos were purchased before the boycott took place (?) - but not totally sure about that. Or maybe they were on sale BECAUSE of the boycott :) Let us know in the comments below if you remember anything about these particular leotards. Side note: Amy thought Lorraine was SO BRILLIANT to remember to wear her medal that she had won in a recent competition. Alas, Amy wasn't as brilliant, dammit, and didn't get to prove to Cathy just how committed she was to gymnastics.]

Cathy Rigby was the highest-scoring American gymnast at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. She quickly became a favorite with American television audiences and helped popularize gymnastics in the U.S. She was the U.S. National Champion in 1970 and 1972, and became the first American woman to win a medal at the WAG Championships: the silver medal on the balance beam. As a very young child, Amy saw Cathy on the Six Million Dollar Man, in which she played a Russian gymnast named Tanya.

In the mid-1970s, Cathy Rigby shattered an old taboo by appearing in a series of TV commercials for Stayfree Maxi-Pads *gasp*, thereby becoming the first celebrity to endorse a feminine hygiene product. [Can you believe it's been over 40 years since breaking that taboo...and it's still taboo for athletes to talk about their periods???] Cathy went on to work as a commentator at ABC Sports for 18 years, and she played the role of Peter Pan for 40 years (!)

Our favorite quote from Cathy Rigby is a something her mom told her, and that she passed along to a sad and disappointed gymnast that she was coaching: “Doing your best is more important than being the best.” Thank you for passing along that wisdom, Cathy Rigby. You are magnificent.

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