RAF MILDENHALL, England – Carly Patterson, gymnast and Olympic gold-medal winner, helps Christian Graham, 2, practice a backwards roll during a toddlers’ gymnastics class Aug. 13, 2012, at the RAF Mildenhall Youth Center. Patterson was 16 when she won her gold medal in Athens, Greece, in 2004. She visited the base as part of a United Services Organization tour. (U.S. Air Force photo/Karen Abeyasekere)
RAF MILDENHALL, England – Carly Patterson, gymnast and Olympic gold-medal winner and singer, poses for a photo with Enzo Deasis, 4, after a toddlers’ gymnastics class at the RAF Mildenhall Youth Center Aug. 13, 2012. During the visit, there was a meet-and-greet at the Base Exchange, where Patterson signed autographs. (U.S. Air Force photo/Karen Abeyasekere)
RAF MILDENHALL, England – Carly Patterson, gymnast and Olympic gold-medalist, poses with children from the toddlers’ gymnastics class at the RAF Mildenhall Youth Center Aug. 13, 2012. Patterson visited the base as part of a United Services Organization tour and took the time to visit the youth center and help with the class. (U.S. Air Force photo/Karen Abeyasekere)
Carly Patterson, Olympic gold medalist and singer, smiles after signing an autograph for Capt. Carl Reyes, 48th Maintenance Operations Squadron, during a meet-and-greet at the RAF Mildenhall Base Exchange Aug. 13, 2012. Patterson was at the base for the day as part of a United Services Organizations tour to meet Service members and their families and provide gymnastics classes for children at the youth center. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Neal X. Joiner)
RAF MILDENHALL, England – Carly Patterson, Olympic gold medalist and singer, speaks with members of the 351st Air Refueling Squadron Aug. 13, 2012, while visiting the squadron as part of a United Services Organizations tour at RAF Mildenhall. Patterson was at the base for the day to meet Service members and their families as well as provide gymnastics classes for children at the youth center. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Neal X. Joiner)
by Karen Abeyasekere
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
8/14/2012 - RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Former-Olympic gymnast and singer Carly Patterson, visited RAF Mildenhall Aug. 13 to meet with military members and their families.
While here, Patterson signed autographs at the Base Exchange and spent time mentoring children during several gym classes at the youth center.
She was 16 when she won her gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, in the women's Individual All-Around Gymnastics event. The gymnast recalled how she felt upon receiving the prestigious medal.
"I felt a whole load of different emotions rolled into one," she said. "All those years of training and hard work finally paid off; to achieve my ultimate dream, in my favorite sport, and to win the ultimate prize of a gold medal - it was a dream come true. It's what every gymnast wants to get some day."
The Dallas native said during this year's Olympics she was able to work with the U.S. gymnastics team, and it brought back memories for her.
"It was my first time to be back at the Olympics since competing. Seeing the Olympic rings everywhere was really cool; it was a great experience. It was so fun to watch our girls - we did such an amazing job and it just brought back all those memories of me doing the same thing.
"Getting to watch everyone stand up on the podium and get their medals; to see a new generation doing it, was awesome!"
Patterson said she hopes watching the recent Olympics has inspired children and adults alike to be more proactive in doing sports and activities.
"It's hard to not watch the Olympics - it's been everywhere!" she said. "You see how much it inspires all the little kids to get involved in sport; when you see reporters on TV interviewing children, whether at gymnastics places or softball gyms, it's really cool. I want them to find their passion in what they love to do."
Josie Wilkes, 100th Force Support Squadron gymnastics instructor, teaches the children's classes the gold medalist visited.
"The kids really enjoyed Carly's visit," said Wilkes. "They were really excited, and so were the parents!"
"It was nice of her to take the time to come over and see us, especially as we only have small classes," she said. "The kids have been talking about her visit for weeks."
This is Patterson's first time on a United Services Organization tour, and she said she jumped at the chance to visit military bases and meet the troops and their families.
"I'm really excited to be here and glad to have this opportunity to meet them," she said. "The military are the real heroes - we're just athletes that come along and get to be in their presence. I'm thankful for what they do, and for serving and keeping us safe."