Olympic medalist, UI coach to be featured at Rantoul banquet

RANTOUL – Justin Spring of Champaign, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist on the U.S. men's gymnastics team and assistant gymnastics coach at the University of Illinois, will be the featured speaker at this year's Rantoul Area Chamber of Commerce annual banquet.

Spring, a UI graduate, will discuss the obstacles he overcame to help the U.S. team to a third-place finish at Beijing.

The banquet is 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Willow Pond Banquet Center.

Auctions will be be live and silent. Something new will also be featured, a dessert auction.

The dessert auction will include pies and cakes from well-known bakers such as Mayor Neal Williams, Rantoul Police Chief Paul Farber, Diane Michaels from Busey Bank and Corkey Burdette and Sue Campbell from the chamber office.

Auction items and desserts are still being accepted. Call or e-mail the chamber office with donations and reservations at 893-3323 or dir<@>mchsi.com.

The banquet will include the announcement of Citizen of the Year award, Marv Remmers Volunteer of the Year award and Business of the Year award.

The banquet begins with a cash bar.

Spring said in a telephone interview that his talk at the Rantoul chamber annual meeting will be his first formal one since the Olympics.

Spring said he will discuss his Olympic experience, all of the setbacks he has had to overcome and "what it's like to be an Olympian."

He said he will focus on staying positive and never giving up when times get tough.

Spring said he has been touring in gymnastics competition for the past 2 1/2 months and will return to his duties as a coach for the UI gymnastics program later this month.

"I've only been home for eight days in the last three months," Spring said.

Born in Houston, Spring was raised in Burke, Va.

He ws a four-time NCAA champion, winning a pair of titles on the high bar in 2004 and 2006 and back-to-back titles on the parallel bars in 2005 and 2006.

He was named Big Ten Gymnast of the Year in 2006.

In 2005, Spring became the first Illini to win a national title at the American Cup, taking home the silver medal behind only Olympic champion Paul Hamm.

At the 2008 Olympics, Spring posted high scores on the vault, parallel bars, high bar and floor exercise.

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