Duffey inducted into gymnastics Hall

HALL OF FAMER — Fairmont graduate Bob Duffey (middle) steps to the podium during the Minnesota Girls Gymnastics Coaches Hall of Fame ceremony on Feb. 22 in Minneapolis. Duffey, one of this year’s inductees, has been around gymnastics for 45 years. Duffey won the floor exercise at the state tournament during his senior season at Fairmont High School. (Courtesy of the Duffey Family)

FAIRMONT — Shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday each year, the winter sports season gets under way. That means that for at least one night a week, Bob Duffey will be judging high school gymnastics meets.

Duffey watches each gymnast in her respective event, looking at body position and making sure each move and technique is executed cleanly and efficiently.

As a former high school state floor exercise champion and collegiate gymnast, he knows exactly what to look for.

During the 45 years that Duffey has been involved with gymnastics, he’s been afforded various opportunities.

This year, Duffey’s accomplishments were recognized as he was inducted into the Minnesota Girls Gymnastics Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Feb. 22 in Minneapolis.

“I was somewhat surprised,” Duffey said. “It was just a real honor to get this award.”

Duffey joins current Martin County Area Magic gymnastics head coach LeeAnn Steen and Fairmont boys gymnastics head coach, the late Herb Wolf, in the hall of fame — both of whom Duffey has a personal connection.

Duffey has worked with Steen at various gymnastics camps and clinics, and both currently teach in the Martin County West school system.

“We’ve helped each other out over the past years. We have a good relationship,” Duffey said. “I’ve watched her grow through gymnastics and helped her with camps and that kind of stuff.”

Wolf was Duffey’s coach at Fairmont High School, and Duffey said he learned a great deal as a gymnast. As a senior, Duffey won the floor exercise at the state meet.

“I believe our team took third in state that year,” Duffey added.

The Fairmont graduate parlayed the outstanding prep finish into a successful gymnastics career at Iowa State University.

While there, he competed on the floor and vault at the same time as Ron Galimore, who is currently the men’s senior program director for USA Gymnastics.

Duffey can recall watching Galimore score a perfect 10 on the vault during the NCAA Championships, the first by any athlete in NCAA history.

Duffey also closed out his college career on top, much like in high school, as he and the Cyclones placed second as a team at the national championship. With his competition years behind him, Duffey served as a coach for a while, which included, but not limited to, being the mentor of a club gymnastics team in Fairmont.

“I had some really good gymnastics come out of club in Fairmont. That was fun,” he recalled.

Through the years, Duffey has seen gymnastics evolve, including the end of boys gymnastics and rise of girls gymnastics in high school.

“I see the girls doing a lot of what the boys did probably 10 or 15 years prior,” he said. “The equipment has changed tremendously. … Everything is spring-loaded and really to the advantage of the gymnast.”

Duffey likes the changes in the sport, noting that with the advancements, the level of skill has become tougher. The athletes are up for the challenge, though, putting in the required amount of time it takes to achieve excellence.

“I see a lot more dedication in the area around here, with girls going to gymnastics all year long in camps and that type of thing. And good coaching in the area makes a big difference,” Duffey said.

These days, Duffey travels to Pipestone, Marshall, New Ulm and other towns in southern Minnesota to be a judge for gymnastics meets.

He also is a scout of some sorts. As a third-grade teacher, Duffey is privy to seeing the future of gymnastics each year.

“It’s fun seeing lots of kids I teach going into gymnastics. I kind of follow them through the years in school,” said Duffey.