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2005 gym champ Memmel starting 'new chapter'

With the London Olympics no longer a possibility, Chellsie Memmel is moving on to a "new chapter" in her life.

What that will involve, she doesn't know for sure.

"This has been a hard time for me. Gymnastics is something I have done my whole life, and now it is over," the 2005 world champion said. "Last November, I took and passed the judges course, and it's a route I can take, if I like it. It might be weird to be on that side, but it is a way to be involved in the sport. Life goes on and I am starting a new chapter."

Memmel competed on balance beam at last weekend's U.S. Classic in hopes of earning a spot at the national championships, which begin Thursday in St. Louis. But she fell twice, and a selection committee decided her score of 11.95 was too low to advance. She had needed a 14 or better, national team coordinator Martha Karolyi said.

While Memmel said she understood the decision, she also said she was disappointed and sad that her latest comeback ended this way. Memmel is one of the country's most-popular gymnasts, and outraged fans have circulated petitions urging USA Gymnastics to allow her one last chance to compete.

"The support the fans have given me has been unreal," Memmel said. "It is unbelievable how many people have reached out to me."

Memmel is one of the country's most accomplished gymnasts, with three gold medals from the world championships. In addition to her 2005 all-around title, she was part of the 2003 squad that won the country's first team title at worlds and also tied for gold on uneven bars that year.

She has three more silver medals from worlds, and was part of the U.S. team that won the silver medal at the Beijing Olympics.

She likely could have achieved even more if not for a series of inopportune injuries. She missed the Athens Olympics because of a foot injury. She blew out her shoulder at the 2006 world championships, and was sidelined for most of the next 1½ years. In Beijing, she was limited to uneven bars in both qualifying and team finals because of what turned out to be a broken ankle.

She re-injured her shoulder at last year's U.S. championships, and had surgery in November and again in February.

"I have no regrets about trying to come back," she said. "I am happy with what I have accomplished, my gymnastics career and everything I was able to do."

USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny and Memmel have talked this week about ways she can stay involved with the sport and the federation, including working as a judge or possibly joining the post-Olympic tour.

"We are looking at every option we can to keep Chellsie Memmel involved," Penny said. "She's important to us, and we appreciate everything she has done and will do."

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