Athlete–Disciplined muscle strength is the essence of the difficult sport of gymnastics. Jim Hartung had it, really had it, perhaps like no other Nebraskan ever and few in the world during his athletic prime. He completed his high school gymnastics career with 18 individual event championships and won the Nebraska School Activities Association all-around state championship from 1975 to 1977. Omaha South won the state gymnastics championship each season Hartung competed. At the University of Nebraska, he became only the second person in NCAA men’s gymnastics history to win seven individual titles in a career, including all-around NCAA champion in 1980 and 1981. He was a record-setting 22-time NCAA All-American. Nebraska also won team NCAA titles during the Hartung era. He achieved a boyhood dream and earned spots on the 1980 and 1984 United States Olympic teams, the latter winning the Gold Medal.
A Jim Hartung quote:
There have been a lot of highlights, but when I was twelve years old I watched the Olympics and I remember saying to myself, that looks pretty cool, I think I might like to do that. I decided that that was what I was going to do, and from the time I was about 14 or 15 I thought about the Olympics every day of my life. Those other things, getting married and having kids, they weren’t lifelong goals, I guess I just figured down the road it was something I was going to do, but making the Olympics was something that motivated me every day of my life for a lot of years and I can’t think of anything else that’s made me feel anything like that.
From Omaha Sports Hall of Fame:
There are definitions that define athletes, however mere description does not begin to illustrate the impact Jim Hartung has on Nebraska gymnastics or the way in which his name has become synonymous with the sport in the state. A standout from the time he entered Omaha South High School, Hartung would go on to become one of the greatest high school gymnasts ever, winning eighteen career individual championships, including three All-Around championships, while leading South High to state championship four straight years.
Upon entering the University of Nebraska in 1979, Hartung did not skip a beat, continuing to lead teams to championships and establishing himself as the best collegiate gymnast in the country. Hartung led Nebraska to four straight national championships, during which time he was a twenty-two –time All-American, and won the NCAA All-Around titles in 1980 and 1981. Titles in the Still Rings from 1980-82 and the Parallel Bars in 1981 and 1982 solidified Hartung’s status as the greatest gymnast in the history of the Cornhuskers.
After the 1980 season, Hartung was chosen to represent the United States in the Olympic Games; it was his performance on the 1984 squad, though, that made Hartung an international legend. For the first time in Olympic history, the United States won a gold medal in gymnastics, with Hartung competing in the All-Around and placing ninth. Hartung was also a member of three World Championship Teams for the United States, finishing his career with an amazing thirteen championship team titles.
Jim Hartung still holds the University of Nebraska records in the All-Around, Still Rings and the Pommel Horse, was the first Husker to win the Nissen-Emery Award for the nation’s best gymnast and was elected to the Nebraska Sports High School Hall of Fame in 1993 and the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1997. He currently is an assistant coach for the University of Nebraska and a gymnastics judge.
- 1984 – Member of the United States Gold Medal Winning Gymnastics Team
- 1980 and 1984 – Member of the United States Gymnastics Team
- 1979-1984 – Member of Four National Championship Teams at Nebraska
- 22-time NCAA All-American
- 1980 and 1981 – NCAA All-Around Champion
- 1980,1981 and 1982 – NCAA Still Rings Champion
- 1981 and 1982 – NCAA Parallel Bars Champion
- 1982 – Nebraska’s First Nissen-Emery Award Winner
- 1994 – Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame Inductee
- 1997 – USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame Inductee