Staff Photo: John Bohn Kat Ding, an NCAA All-American gymnast, who recently finished her career at the University of Georgia, is now serving as the spokesperson for the Gwinnett Sports Council. Ding recreates a move from her competitive floor routine in front of the Gwinnett Chamber Building in Duluth.
Her career as an elite gymnast at Georgia, which included three NCAA individual apparatus national championships and helping the Bulldogs to a national team title as a freshman in 2009, gives her plenty of visibility.
And her studies toward a degree in advertising, which she hopes to finish by December, could also prove handy in any presentations she might make in promoting Gwinnett's sports scene.
But really, the most prominent factor to Hall can be summed up in just one word -- energy.
"I came over here in January as the director of the sports commission and I thought one of the things that really needed to be done was to put somebody in place who really was sort of the epitome of sports and energy and all the things that it brings with it," Hall said. "We hosted the NCAA (gymnastics championships) here (at The Arena at Gwinnett Center) this year and Kat was one of the competitors from Georgia.
"I'd never really heard of her, and I'm not a big follower of gymnastics. But I watched her all day, and she was all full of energy, and the fact she won two national championships certainly didn't hurt. I just sort of struck up a conversation with her -- not at the event, but after the event. And I sort of ran it by some people, and it seemed like a very nice fit."
It also felt like a good fit for Ding, though admittedly, being a sports commission's spokesperson wasn't exactly the first thing she envisioned for herself after her gymnastics career ended.
But make no mistake, she intends to bring the same level of energy to her new venture as she did in the gym.
"Now that I think about it, it makes sense to do this immediately after my (gymnastics) career ends because I have the most relevance directly after my career ends," Ding said. "It just fits into what I've been doing. ... It is (exciting). It is. I don't know if sports is really the direction I was planning on going, honestly. But now that it's started, I'm so excited. It pertains to who I am and what part of me was gymnastics.
"It's basically like a marathon. There's going to be ups and downs. There are going to be times when you're extremely fatigued. There are going to be times when everyone around you is still running, so you just keep going."
That is the message Ding hopes to deliver no matter what project she works on, whether it's being the face and/or voice of the Gwinnett Sports Commission at events held within the county, appearing in video presentations the commission will use to attract new events to the county or just getting out in the community and meeting sports fans throughout Gwinnett.
But the project she is looking forward to the most is working to help promote participation in youth sports and fitness programs throughout the county.
"It's mostly promotion of health and fitness," Ding said." I'm trying to (reach) not only parents, but children. ... Basically, it's like being the (GSC's) younger voice. So, I'm talking to people who already know who I am, and if they don't, they'll learn about me rather quickly."
Given the success she enjoyed during her career at Georgia, visibility shouldn't be much of a problem.
But it hasn't always been that way.
Growing up in Sparks, Nev., Ding faced a choice -- not just in which college program she would compete for, but a choice in direction.
"Somebody at a smaller school said, 'You know what? You can be a big fish in a little pond or you can be a little fish in a big pond. Whatever one you want to do,'" Ding recalled. "I was thinking, 'You know what? I want to be a little fish in a big pond. I want to have room to succeed versus somewhere where I'm already the biggest thing that they have. So, I looked at Georgia again."
And Ding has not only survived in the bigger pond, she has raised her profile to fit an even bigger pond that she is entering as she attempts to help the Gwinnett Sports Commission likewise raise its profile.
There is already one event coming to Gwinnett that Ding's profile will be rather prominent, with the Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions 2012 event coming to The Arena at Gwinnett Center this fall.
"We've got (Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions 2012) coming here in (October) after the Olympic Games in London," Hall said. "She's going to promote that. Obviously, she's got a great background in gymnastics where she can talk about things much deeper than we probably could. So, she's going to be a big help in promoting that. Just things like that. That's what we're going to use her for."