Phil Cahoy stood tall in gymnastics — despite standing tall in gymnastics.
A 2001 USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame inductee, Cahoy was 6-foot-1, considered tall for a gymnast. In fact, unlike football or basketball players who try to pad their dimensions, Cahoy was always listed as being 5-11.
"Being tall is such a disadvantage for gymnasts," he said. "Your arms are so much longer, and it’s harder to make the strength moves."
Cahoy became a gymnastics giant anyway.
Cahoy was a standout at Omaha South, winning three straight state championships from 1976 to '78. His dominance led to his induction into the Omaha Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Omaha Public Schools Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.
At Nebraska, Cahoy earned four NCAA national championships — two on the horizontal bar and two on the parallel bars. He made the 1980 U.S. Olympic team.
But Cahoy's bid to join lifelong friend Jim Hartung on the 1984 Olympic team was sabotaged by a dislocated ankle and torn cartilage in his shoulder. Those injuries prevented him from the all-out training needed to make the team.
"That was my most disappointing time, not being able to train as hard as I needed to do," Cahoy said. "You’ve got to be good as well as lucky. There are a lot of guys who probably would have been better gymnasts than either Jim or I. But injuries ruined their careers. You see that in every sport."
Cahoy draws on his experiences with top-of-the-world success and end-of-the-world injuries while now working as an orthopedic surgeon.
"I tell them that injuries happen," he said. "I encourage them to fight through it. I try to get them back on their path again."
Played for: Omaha South High and Nebraska Cornhuskers
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Jim Hartung
Best moment as an athlete: "It's two-fold. Obviously, making the 1980 Olympic team was a big highlight. But also it was just being a member of the University of Nebraska teams that dominated the college scene back then. Jim and I each were on teams that won four national championships -- a stretch of five national championships in a row."
Early sign of greatness: "I was about 12 when Jim Hartung and I went to a national competition in Fort Worth, Texas. He's a year older, and we were in different age groups. Jim won his age group. I came in second to Jim Mikus of Pennsylvania, who later became a University of Nebraska gymnast. That was the first inkling that we were on the right path. It was our first gymnastics meet where top kids competed against top kids."
Cahoy was No. 48 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »