Peter Landry’s star-studded gymnastics career — one that included a national championship at Ohio State — almost never happened. 

Landry, who was first introduced to gymnastics at the age of 3, walked away from the sport when he was in sixth grade, saying he felt he needed some time away from the mat and the rigorous training regimen. 

His love for the sport eventually pulled him back into the gym, and now he will be immortalized in the Auburn-Lewiston Hall of Fame as a member of the 2015 class. Landry will be inducted alongside fellow Buckeye gymnast Rodney Gendron. 

“It’s a cool honor,” Landry said. “It’s good to be recognized where I grew up. That’s where everything began, so it’s great to come back there and be part of the induction.” 

The Lewiston native and Lewiston High School graduate originally had his mind set on following in his older brothers’ footsteps and becoming a hockey player. But there was a problem. Landry was too young. 

“They didn’t have a program for me at that age,” Landry said. “I was a real active kid and my parents just kind of put me in the sport and I just kind of took to it and found a little niche. I excelled at it early and I stayed with it, progressed and it took off from there.” 

When he wasn’t in school, Landry could be found at Andy Valley School of Gymnastics working with Don White, the gym’s owner at the time. They’d practice three times a week, four hours a day. Landry competed in the all-around — floor exercise, pommel horse, rings, high bar, vault and parallel bars —  through high school.

Landry found success early. He won the 1985 New England Championships in Springfield, Mass., among a field of 115 participants. Landry compiled a two-day all-around score of 94.2 points, 5.2 points ahead of the runner up.  He won the floor exercise, pommel horse, rings and high bar and placed second in the vault and parallel bars.

Landry said both the Andy Valley School of Gymnastics and White were instrumental parts of his life growing up. 

“Without gymnastics I would not be where I am today, and it’s not the awards that I think about; it’s what the sport brought to me in my own individual life,” Landry said. “The strong foundation for life skills you can’t learn anywhere else. 

“Don was a technician. He was very methodical about the way he coached us. He knew that in order for us to excel in the sport, he really needed to teach us the basics because we need to build a foundation. Don was passionate, he taught work ethic, responsibility, working harder than your competitor. Those are things I’m using today because of what I learned at a young age from him and Andy Valley.” 

But all the training caught up to him, and he decided to take a break in middle school. He was a member of the U.S. Junior Olympic team at the time, practicing four hours a day, every day. It was then that he decided to take some time off. 

It didn’t take long before Landry began to miss the sport that played a major role in his childhood. Landry said he missed gymnastics every day, but it was still three years before he’d return. Landry played baseball at Lewiston to stay active. 

A bike ride to Andy Valley ultimately convinced Landry to return to the mat. 

“It was ultimately my decision,” Landry said. “I stopped by the gym one day, I looked in and saw the guys training together and I really knew that was where I needed to be. That made the decision for me and I spoke to my parents about it. They fully supported me and I went back to the sport and everything else kind of transpired from there.” 

The transition back into gymnastics wasn’t smooth at first. During his three years away from the sport, Landry had a major growth spurt, growing six inches and gaining 30 pounds. The body in which he had learned everything he knew about gymnastics had changed, and he basically had to start over, beginning with the fundamentals. 

By his junior year, Landry had qualified for a berth at the U.S. Olympic Training Center at Colorado Springs during the summer after an impressive showing at the Junior Olympic National Championships in Augusta, Ga. He had won the all-around competition a few weeks earlier at the regional meet in Vermont to secure his place at nationals. 

After deciding to return to gymnastics, Landry’s next biggest dilemma was choosing which college to attend. He had narrowed it down to Ohio State and Nebraska and was set to sign with the Huskers after receiving their scholarship offer before making a phone call to Gendron, a fellow Andy Valley alum and now owner of the gymnasium. 

Gendron, an assistant coach for the Ohio State men’s gymnastics team at the time, told Landry to wait on signing with Nebraska and got a hold of the Ohio State and U.S. Olympic team coach Peter Kormann. Landry and Kormann talked later that afternoon and the conversation ended with Landry agreeing to join the Buckeyes. 

“He liked Ohio State,” Gendron said. “He came to visit and I think Nebraska was really pushing hard for him and the coach was really telling him what he wanted to hear. He told me he was planning on going their so I said, ‘Wait a minute. Let me call coach Kormann and let him get his two cents in before you make your decision.’ He decided he wanted to go to Ohio State and the rest is history.” 

A year later he was a national champion as the Buckeyes captured their second NCAA title in program history. Ohio State never finished lower than sixth at NCAAs during Landry’s four years and won two Big Ten titles. 

Landry specialized in the rings and parallel bars during his time at Ohio State. He won three individual Big Ten titles, including parallel bars his junior year. Landry was a two-time All-American, garnering the distinction in rings as a junior and on the parallel bars as a senior. He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a junior. 

“It comes down to great coaching, great leadership,” Landry said. “It’s committing yourself just like anything else. Committing yourself and dedicating yourself at what you’re doing to be the best you want to become.” 

Landry served as a team captain as a senior, much like Gendron did in 1995. That year, Landry was nominated for the Nissen Emery Award, honoring the year’s most outstanding gymnast. Oklahoma’s Todd Bishop ultimately won the award. 

The Buckeyes rarely tasted defeat during Landry’s four years. They were 29-3 in dual meets in that four-year stretch. Ohio State’s first dual meet loss came in Landry’s junior year against Penn State. Ohio State had won its first 20 duals with Landry on the roster. 

Landry said his two best moments were the national championship in 1996 and the individual championships he won with the Buckeyes.

Not bad for a career that nearly ended before it really began.

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