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Cathy Rigby: Where it All Started for our Director

Updated: Oct 9, 2019

Photo credit: Phillip Leonian | Sports Illustrated

Photo credit: John Dominis | Life Magazine

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.

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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