Who is... Alex Naddour
25-year-old Alex Naddour is a four-time national champion on the pommel horse, and his skills have helped the U.S. men win bronze medals in the team event at the 2011 and 2014 World Championships. An alternate on the 2012 Olympic team, Naddour improved his results on still rings and floor to make himself a more versatile athlete in the lead-up to Rio. It paid off when Naddour was named one of five members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic men's gymnastics team.
Born in Gilbert, Arizona, Alex Naddour began gymnastics at 3 years old with the same coach he still trains with today: his father, Mike. His parents own the USA Youth Fitness Center, which has two locations in Gilbert and Queen Creek, located east of Phoenix.
Naddour left Arizona to attend the University of Oklahoma, and claimed the NCAA title on the pommel horse two consecutive times (2010 and 2011). In 2011, he proved to be not just the best college gymnast on the pommel horse but the best U.S. gymnast when he won the first of four national titles on the notoriously tricky event.
He made his world championships debut in 2011, and competed only on the pommel horse in the team final. With Naddour’s help—he was one of only two men who scored over 15 points on the pommel horse—the U.S. men claimed a team bronze medal. Individually, Naddour ranked ninth on the pommels in the qualification round, leaving him just one spot short of qualifying for the event final.
Leading up to the 2012 London Olympics, Naddour opted to leave the University of Oklahoma so he could get more individualized training back home in Arizona. With his dad again his coach, Naddour won the pommel horse title at both the national championships and 2012 Olympic Trials.
But Naddour’s excellence on one event wasn’t enough to get him onto the Olympic team—instead, he was named as a non-competing alternate.
“When I didn’t get named, I went out in the hall and saw my wife and saw my mom, and was like ‘Dang, that stinks,’” Naddour said. “But then looking back on it... it was actually a blessing for me just because I was able to go see what it’s all about, but also realize that my life is good."
Naddour and the other two alternates, Chris Brooks and Steven Legendre, watched from the stands as the U.S. men began strong the London Olympics strong by finishing first in the qualification round. But then during the team final, they made a series of mistakes, particularly on pommel horse, to finish a disappointing fifth.
"Sadly they didn't end up with a medal which was really hard to watch. Watch them mess up on horse, which is an event that I [excel on], I was like 'Aw, man!' So it was really tough at that moment as well."
Naddour’s biggest takeaway from London was the motivation to continue competing for another four years. “I probably would have been done after” London, he said. “And I went to three more world championships and get another world medal, so it’s been good to keep going.”
Naddour competed on at the 2013, 2014 and 2015 World Championships, and won another team bronze medal with the U.S. men at the 2014 Worlds. He also continued to build his reputation as one of the world’s best pommel horse workers, qualifying for the final in both 2014 and 2015. He finished sixth in 2014 and seventh in 2015.
Naddour hoped to clinch his fifth pommel horse title at the 2016 P&G Championships, the last competition before the U.S. men’s gymnastics Olympic Trials. But Naddour, usually so consistent on his best event, fell off the horse during a complex sequence of skills and ultimately finished sixth. But the silver lining of the competition came elsewhere; by finishing fourth on both floor exercise and still rings, Naddour proved that he was not the same “one-trick pony” that he was in 2012.
Olympic Trials Highlights
Before the 2016 Olympic Trials, Naddour’s wife washed his uniform in the same detergent she uses for their baby daughter’s clothing. He smelled it during the competition to remind himself what was at stake and why he was working so hard: for his family.
With four-month old Lilah wearing a “Team Naddour” onesie up in the stands, Naddour hit both his pommel horse routines, put up the third best scores on still rings, and also ranked in the top eight on floor and vault. This time, it was more than enough to earn him a long-coveted spot on an Olympic team.
Naddour is the first Arizona-based gymnast to be named to an U.S. Olympic team.
Naddour had the most difficult pommel horse routine at the U.S. Olympic Trials, competing a routine with a start value of 16.800 points. He’s improved his difficulty score by one-tenth from last year’s world championships, and is approaching the difficulty levels of the top pommel horse workers in the world. The 2015 pommel horse world champion, Max Whitlock, has a start value of 17.300.