A lot has changed since Jade Carey first visited the Oregon State campus in 2015.
She developed into one of the best gymnasts in the world, winning a gold medal in the floor exercise at this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The Oregon State gymnastics program wasn’t standing still, either. This spring, the program unveiled a brand-new, 21,000-square-foot practice facility near the Corvallis campus. While it might not be accurate to call it The House that Jade Built, it was certainly built with her in mind.
“Six years ago when we recruited Jade we already were well into thinking ‘Hey, we need a new facility,’” said associate head coach Michael Chaplin.
That thought grew stronger as the Oregon State staff, including head coach Tanya Chaplin, watched Carey’s growth as an elite gymnast.
“I kept watching her get better and better, and obviously she’s one of the best vaulters in the world, she might vault out. There might not be enough room in that facility,” Michael Chaplin said of the former practice location. “The timing of it all has been amazing and we’re really, really glad that we have a facility now that can help her continue training.”
Carey visited the new practice facility on Friday to talk about her Olympic experience and the upcoming gymnastics season. A native of Arizona, she was won over by the Corvallis campus.
“Ever since I visited here first in 2015, I just fell in love with everything about it. It’s so pretty, the campus is really beautiful. I love the coaches. I just think it was the perfect fit for me,” Carey said.
Carey’s original plan was to attend Oregon State in 2020. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, however, forced the delay of the 2020 Olympics and pushed back her plans for a year. The delay was worth the wait for Carey, who competed in the individual all-around final and the vault final, in addition to winning the floor exercise final.
Because of the pandemic, many events were held without spectators and international travel restrictions forced most athletes’ families to watch from home. But because her father, Brian Carey, is her coach, he was able to attend.
“That meant everything to me, especially being able to share such an accomplishment with my dad. That was really special,” Carey said.
Even while she was preparing for the Olympics, Carey took online courses at Oregon State during the fall and winter terms last year. A kinesiology major, she took the spring off to focus on training.
Oregon State students are starting to arrive for the fall term which begins Sept. 22, but Carey has one final obligation to complete before she begins her life as a full-time, on-campus student. She is a featured part of the lineup for the Gold Over America Tour which starts on Sept. 21 and goes through Nov. 7 with performances in 35 cities. The tour is headlined by Simone Biles and also includes Jordan Chiles, Mykayla Skinner and Laurie Hernandez, among many others.
“I wish I wasn’t going to miss out on the first few weeks of school, but I’m also really grateful that I’m going to have this opportunity to go on tour that I might not get again,” Carey said. “So many opportunities that I have now and it’s just been really exciting to do a bunch of fun things.”
Once the tour is done, Carey will finally make her long-awaited debut as a collegiate gymnast.
“I’m really excited about being part of this gymnastics team. We’re a team, but we’re also individuals. I feel like college is more the team aspect, so I’m really looking forward to that,” Carey said.
Michael Chaplin said there is a great deal of excitement surrounding Oregon State gymnastics as fans await Carey’s debut in January. He said ticket sales are strong and the level of attention paid to the program has definitely increased.
“Everybody knows Jade. That was such a thrill for Beaver fans to see her do so well at the Olympic Games,” Chaplin said.
The expectation is that Carey will help raise the bar for the entire program.
“Any time you have a high-level athlete, that’s going to raise the competition level. First of all, she’s a great individual and a great team player. She’s excited about the team succeeding. I think that kind of energy is always a plus for the program and the other athletes,” Chaplin said.
Gymnasts at the collegiate level have more freedom to create routines which showcase their personalities than their counterparts in the top international competitions. Carey said she is looking forward to the opportunity to combine the best of both approaches as a collegiate gymnast.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to put together my college routines and kind of mix both together. I want to keep some harder things but also take it a little bit easier here and there,” Carey said. “It’s more relaxed and I think it will be a lot more fun.”