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Notary's parents declined the doctor's advice to put him on Ritalin for his hyperactivity, and instead enrolled him in a gymnastics class to burn off some of his excess energy.
"Once he got in the gym, everything changed," Judith Notary continues. "He just needed an outlet."
Learning to do a back flip was a major turning point in Notary's life. "I was just this little psycho kid," he says. "I was doing run up, back flip; run up, back flip; run up, back flip. For an hour and a half. That was it. My coach said, 'Well, he's a little wild, but there's something there.' I just lived for gymnastics at that age."
Through gymnastics, Notary also learned discipline. He would spend some four hours after school practicing, then go home and study and finish up his homework by about midnight. Everywhere he went, he carried a notebook in which he'd jot down his ambitions and dreams.
"Every night, I'd set my goals to see what I was going to learn the next day," Notary says. "I would have this, this and this done by the week."
And so, Notary learned a back handspring by Friday. In a month and one week, he perfected a roundoff back handspring back flip. Before long, he was winning the state championship. "Usually, whatever I wrote down in that notebook, I would do."
It's a practice that he continues today, sketching out new dance moves, story ideas and other thoughts.
By the time he was 17, Notary had won regional and state championships and placed second at nationals. When it was time for college, he was heavily recruited by schools that included Annapolis, West Point, Stanford and UC Berkeley, near his hometown of San Rafael, Calif., all offering full scholarships. But Notary had his sights set on Westwood. UCLA, after all, was the home of his heroes; pictures of Bruin gymnasts Mitch Gaylord, Peter Vidmar '83 and Tim Daggett '86 -- all members of the gold medal-winning 1984 U.S. Olympic team -- plastered the walls of his bedroom.
And UCLA had its sights set on Notary. Art Shurlock, UCLA's men's gymnastics coach from 1964 to 2000, says Notary was a terrific all-around athlete, but was especially creative on the high bar and the floor exercise. Notary developed an "out-of-the-ordinary" move for the floor exercise called the "spider-man," Shurlock says. For the move, Notary would begin with his legs in a straddle position above his shoulders and then sink down and do a press up to a handstand.
Notary also was a bit of a goof, Shurlock recalls, sometimes cavorting around the gym on his knuckles like a gorilla.
In his senior year, Notary was elected team captain and had won national awards, but he came up short in qualifying for the national Olympic team, finishing 16th in the trials. He spent a fifth year at UCLA, and though his