By LANCE CRANMER firstname.lastname@example.org
UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio – Char Christensen has been to three World Gymnastics Championships, two Pan-Am Games and was in attendance in 1996 when the United States’ women brought home the first-ever team Olympic gold medal in Atlanta.
“I guess you’d say I have a passion,” Christensen joked. “And a full-time job.”
During the week, Christensen is the health care Activities Director at National Church Residences’ First Community Village. In her free time – especially in gymnastics’ busy season from December to April – Christensen is traveling around the country as a highly-renowned judge in the sport she has been involved with since her youth.
“I currently am a national and USA brevet gymnastics judge,” she said, noting that she has officiated at high school, regional, national and NCAA competitions. “I’ve been at that level for 30 years.”
Christensen’s impact on the sport, though made behind the scenes, is on a national scale.
“I am the Region 5 women’s technical chair,” she said. “Which means I sit on a national committee that makes rule changes. It’s a volunteer position that I’ve held for 25 years.”
When the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics begin this week, Christensen will have even had a hand in selecting the members of the US women’s team. Last month at the Olympic trials in San Jose, Christensen served an auxiliary judge for the balance beam event.
“I have a passion for the sport,” she said. “I was a gymnast. My daughter, Katie, went to Minnesota on a full scholarship for gymnastics. I’m a coach, and an official. I guess you could say I’ve experienced it at all levels.”
At First Community Village, Christensen brings her passion for gymnastics to her residents to help them experience the games.
“There’s a huge sports interest here,” she said. “Every four years we do a torch passing ceremony here. It is a resident with a staff member and we go across the building passing the torch off as an opening ceremony.”
As Activities Director, it is Christensen’s job to keep her residents active.
“During the Olympics we do our version of the Olympic Games,” she said. “We do things like tossing balls through the Olympic rings. Residents really enjoy it. We tie in what’s happening with our community. We are bringing the games to them.”
Christensen has been working with the residents at First Community Village for 15 years.
“I love my job. My goal is to stimulate the residents and involve them physically, mentally, socially and spiritually in our world,” she said. “It is very rewarding. You feel like you make a difference in the residents’ lives on a daily basis.”
Though she isn’t a competitive athlete anymore, Christensen said there are still many aspects from her life as a gymnast that influence her daily life today.
“The physical things we do go by the wayside,” she said. “But it is the processes that carry on. It takes hard work and discipline and teaches you how to both succeed and fail in life. It’s about working with a team and following a structure. It’s important to transfer on that value of hard work to your daily living.”