JAIR--rhymes with Zaire

THE PHOENIX

Jair Posing

By Nefretiti Makenta

Legend has it that a phoenix arose from its ashes as the hallmark of regeneration and the ideal of immortality. Jair personified this legend at the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games when he became the first African-American male gymnast ever to medal in Olympic competition.

With the precision of a plastic surgeon and the determination of the Terminator, Jair Lynch refused to let the excrutiatingly painful and bloody callous in his left palm rule his destiny. He wanted to "shock the world." And the trail of blood that decorated the parallel bars after he finished warming up for his final Olympic routine did not stop him. He simply grabbed a straight-edged razor blade and cut off the dangling skin of the ripped callous to circumvent the possibility of further damage. Jair broke through the overhanging pain barrier with dense, intense and pent up passion. And both his pain and passion were duly rewarded when he completed his world-renowned parallel bar routine and won a Silver Medal.

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Jair predicts his score before every competition.
Rarely is he off.

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For four years, Jair Lynch had harbored the dull pain of just missing the bronze medal in 1992 by only one-tenth of a point. And that frustration had nudged him forward and given breath to a ravenous appetite to win a medal in the parallel bar event finals in the Georgia Dome. He was hungry.

The Road Less Traveled

"There are two ways you can look at it," says Jair. "You can go the high road and you can miss, or you can never take the road and never be capable of winning on an international level."

His hunger first became evident at the Olympic Gymnastics Team Competition when he led the USA to becoming the most improved gymnastics team in the world. Not only was Jair the first African American gymnast to captain an Olympic gymnastics team, he also had the "extra stuff" needed to become the ONLY man on the seven-member team to medal. With a 9.825, Jair stepped into the realm of athletic icons and onto the pages of history. He was finally rewarded for going the extra mile. The high level of intricate difficulty and innovative style of gymnastics that infuses Jair's routines paid off.


Jair clenched the first part of his victory on American soil in the beginning of June when he became the 1996 National Parallel Bar Champion at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships. With a 9.7625, Jair scored highest among six event gold medalists. Jair is a member of the 1996 National Team

Gymnastics World Tidbit
In case you were wondering
It is instrinsically much more difficult for the men to receive perfect 10's in gymnastics than the women because of disparate scoring rules. While female gymnasts start with a generous base score of 9.4, the men start with a paltry 9.0. This is why 9.8's and 9.9's are common for the women. Whereas, 9.6's and 9.7's are more common for the men.

In 1992, Jair was only the second African American male gymnast ever to compete in the Games. And shortly before the games began in Barcelona, he was not even expected to attend. Jair was the baby of the group, the youngest member of the team. But at 20 years old, not only did Jair compete regardless of the 104-degree fever that plagued him during competition, he also came close to winning the bronze medal on his favorite event, the parallel bars.


For 16 years, Jair has been immovable from his determination to be one of the top gymnasts in the country, capable of competing and being a strong contender on an international level. In 1992, a reporter asked Jair to recall the time when he initially envisioned competing in the Olympics. Jair told the reporter that his craving began at the threshold of adulthood. But the reporter quickly displayed an interview he had done of Jair in 1984. "It had actually been in the back of my mind to compete in 1992 and 1996 since the age of 13 rather than 18," says Jair.


Jair on Pommel Horse

Initially in pursuit of the first fruit, the 1992 Olympian has trained relentlessly for six hours a day, six days a week, 52 weeks of the year for seven years. While living in Washington, D.C. Jair had to travel 30 miles a day to get to a competitive gymnastics program. "More than just my desire, my parents had to say, 'We're going to drive you until you're 16 and we're going to have to save money to get you a car so you can continue your dream.'"


1996 Olympic Trials – An Uphill Battle

He fought all the way and came out on top.

Watch for updates!

Did U Know...

Since the 1992 Olympics, Jair and his personal trainer, Fred Stephens, have doubled Jair's strength training workouts to avoid injury. "Injuries come in three forms – flukes, lack of physical strength, and mental mistakes," says Jair. And he has put on 10 lbs. of upper-body strength to steer away from all of these.

Jair was determined to seal a spot on the 1996 Olympic Team. But with a bleeding gash the size of a quarter in his left hand, his potential to become the first African American male gymnast to compete in the Games twice was challenged. Reaching out to grab the horizontal bar for the two release moves seemed for naught as he fell to the mat face-first in each attempt. Both times a would-be-detrimental five tenths of a point was stricken from his score. But with heroic determination emblematic of world-class athletes, his passion to win superseded the nagging cut. Jair got right back on the horizontal bar twice to finish his routine.


Out of 14 competitors, Lynch was the only gymnast to receive #1 scores in more than one event. He received a 9.7 on the parallel bars (the event on which he's most expected to win a medal) and a 9.657 on floor exercise. But Jair's fight was won when he earned an impressive 9.625 for his pommel horse routine. And his hand will be back to normal in no time.


What's Next?

Jair's gymnastics career is far from over. This 1996 Silver medalist will go on the World Gymnastics Tour of Champions which will be visiting a city near you in the fall.

After graduating from Stanford University with academic and athletic honors in 1994, Jair couldn't sit still. He had just received a B.A. in urban design and B.S. in civil engineering. "My entire life has been focused on parallel development, between school and gymnastics. And after I graduated, I wanted to continue to advance in both of those worlds. I always thought that if I tried to stop one side of my life, I might go crazy." Jair found his opportunity to accelerate along the dual path of his top priorities at Silicon Graphics, Inc., a world-renowned computer systems company.


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Jair has also been nominated for a
Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford.

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Unlike most Olympic-bound athletes, Jair has maintained a full-time position alongside his rigorous training schedule. With headquarters based in Silicon Valley, the hub of all cutting-edge, high-tech progenitors, Silicon Graphics, Inc. is leading the industry in visual processing-virtual reality, computer animation, and interactive television and game development. SGI has had a hand in some of the latest blockbuster movies such as "Jurassic Park" and "Terminator 2." Now, at 24-years-old, Jair is aiding in the development of the billion dollar corporation – literally. As an assistant project manager for the company's first research and development campus, Jair is helping to build a 500,000 sq. ft. property expected to win awards for its architectural excellence and trailblazing vision.

Role Model:
Jackie Robinson

"As I was growing up and going to meets in rural areas of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, often I'd be the only African American in the meet. For two years Jackie Robinson was the only African American in the Major Leagues. He broke the color barrier in baseball. When I was younger, I always felt like I was breaking barriers."

But corporate development is not Jair's only concern. There is a third component to his priorities – community development. Under the umbrella of Peninsula Omega Youth Club and Friends for Youth, Jair reaches out to kids to enlarge their kaleidoscope of the world and help point them in the right direction. "I have been very lucky in this life and I will never take it for granted," says Jair. At POYC, Jair has spoken to youth in and out of San Mateo County juvenile halls to stimulate their interest in contributing to the fabric of society. "When you bring in new ideas, or you bring in a book, or you bring in a video, it matters," says Jair. "They don't necessarily have to follow my gymnastics path, but they need to be aware of the myriad of opportunities out here so they can make informed decisions about their future." Jair is now the financial director of the organization.


Through POYC, Jair was struck by the gravity of the old adage, "each one teach one." And Jair wanted to play a more integral part in the life of a young adult. Through the Friends for Youth Program, Jair mentors and watches over his 13-year old "little brother" Marcus Lovelace.

Jair with his little brother
Jair is a tad bit shorter than his 13-year-old "little" brother.
Marcus is 5'5" and Jair is 5'4".

Fun Facts

  • "Jair" is a Senegalese name which means, he who sees the light.

  • Jair's eyes have shifted from green to gray to hazel since birth – depending upon his mood.

Jair's father, Acklyn Lynch is from Port of Spain, Trinidad. He is a professor of Political Economy and African American Studies at the University of Maryland. Jair comes from a family of high achievers. His mother, Martha, is a senior economist and consultant to World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. His sister, Pilar, is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of NYU with degrees in African American Studies and Film.

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"Sometimes I marvel at how he does it. Everybody loves Jair," says Mr. Lynch. "He is able to move back and forth through different worlds with remarkable ease. Jair knows what it takes to be successful."

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Watch for the Phoenix in the upcoming tour

If you would like to connect with Jair and wish him well, please mail him at:

Jair Lynch
c/o Kelly Swanson
1025 Vermont Ave. Ste. 1005
Washington, D.C. 20005
Phone: 202.783.5500 Fax: 202.783.5516

OR

mailbox jair@corp.sgi.com


Where do you go from here?

Photography by (from top of page) Bob Holmgren, Patrick Tower, and Nefretiti Makenta

Odometer Last Updated August 20, 1996
Patrick Tower -- poser@leland.stanford.edu