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US gymnast Jade Carey has dad by her side in Tokyo, mom cheering from home

·5 min read

TOKYO — Brian Carey is one of the few parents of a Tokyo Olympian actually able to watch his child compete in person.

That's because Carey coaches his daughter Jade, a U.S. gymnast, and is an exception to the rule barring international visitors from coming to Tokyo, in a COVID state of emergency with 4,058 new positive cases reported Saturday.

"Having my dad out there by my side means everything to me," Carey said after finishing eighth in the all-around final. "I'm really glad we were able to share this together."

For Carey's mother, Danielle Greenberg, her Olympic connection with Jade is remote, standard for the COVID era but far from ideal when your eldest child is experiencing a seminal life moment on the world's largest athletic stage.

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When Carey vies for medals in vaulting and floor exercise on Sunday and Monday, Greenberg will be watching from her home in Gilbert like she did July 25 when Jade qualified for those eight-woman finals.

She was in Orlando, Florida, during the all-around final for a shared experience with other U.S. Olympic family members, courtesy of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and NBC Universal.

"It's pretty electric," Greenberg said of the Florida viewing experience at an NBCU resort. "We're grateful they did that since we can't be in Tokyo."

Greenberg said she wanted to watch from home when Jade was competing, so she chose dates in Orlando between qualifying and event finals. Not knowing, of course, that Simone Biles would drop out of team and all-around finals for mental health reasons, bumping Jade into an unexpected third finals.

Jade Carey with her dad and coach Brian Carey.
Jade Carey with her dad and coach Brian Carey.

She and Jade's siblings — 15-year-old Taeva and 13-year-old Xandon — watched the 21-year-old again prove she is among the world's elite in her first Olympics. All three planned to be in Tokyo before the pandemic (Jade was the first American gymnast to qualify in February 2020).

"Getting to compete in the all-around final at the Olympics, it doesn't get much better than that as far as a once in a lifetime experience," Greenberg said. "She's totally prepared, she's totally proven herself as an all-arounder. It's a wonderful opportunity to thrust her a little bit farther in the sport."

Where Carey can make a lifetime name for herself is by winning one or two individual medals to join the likes of Biles and Mary Lou Retton on vault and Biles, Aly Raisman, Shawn Johnson, Dominique Dawes and Shannon Miller on floor.

Biles seems unlikely to return to competition in her second Olympics, which would put another Arizonan, MyKayla Skinner of Gilbert, into the vault final and Jennifer Gadirova of Great Britain into the floor final, joining her twin sister, Jessica.

In qualifying, Carey was second on vault (15.166) and third on floor (14.100), even without attempting her triple-double layout on the latter event that if completed at the Olympics would make gymnastics history. With or without that skill, Carey is capable of medaling in both finals, a double that only Biles has accomplished (in 2016).

"For me, I just want her to walk off healthy and happy," said Greenberg, who coaches gymnastics at USA Youth Fitness Center in Gilbert. "If that's with a medal or not, it doesn't matter. I'm proud of her either way.

"She's prepared for this moment for a long time. She's very smart about how she approaches it. If she can just do what she always does, I think she'll be fine. It will be a giant release of emotions when it (vault) is over but then we do it again the next day."

Carey finished first on vault and floor in the Apparatus World Cup, deferring college and traveling to Germany, Azerbaijan, Qatar and Australia to pin down a spot on the U.S. team she might not have made via the traditional U.S. Championships/Olympic Trials route.

"That's part of the reason why she's doing the way she is because she's been in these situations several times," Greenberg said. "There were some good competitors at the World Cups. To travel to those places and get acclimated and train and prepare and get the most points, that's why I think she's prepared because she's done it before so many times. That gives her a little bit of an advantage."

Carey has had two homes growing up. Her parents divorced when she was young but have an amicable relationship and developed a workable custody based on Jade's training schedule. She generally is with her mom Friday through Monday then with her dad during the bulk of weekday training.

"I love it she can have her dad there (in Japan)," Greenberg said. "He's got her back in every situation, it doesn't matter what arises.

"My philosophy from the beginning was I just wanted her to love the sport on her own. Her dad and I never pushed. We let her guide the ship all the way through. We didn't talk about gymnastics at home. She could really just develop the way she wanted to."

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Jade Carey's dad is by her side at Tokyo Olympics as her coach