Balancing act: Penny is CEO of USA Gymnastics – MIHS grad also new father of triplet girls

By Mary L. Grady

By Mary L. Grady

Last August at the XXVIII Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, former Islander and Mercer Island High School graduate Steve Penny was seated next to legendary gymnastic coach Bela Karoly in the magnificent Indoor Olympic Hall.

As gymnast Carly Patterson’s winning score for a gold medal was announced, Penny was furiously text-messaging Mary Lou Retton, the last U.S. all around winner. At Penny’s side, Karoly leapt to his feet, screaming.

A veteran of the national sports organization, USA Gymnastics, Penny was named president and CEO on April 4.

Based in Indianapolis, the organization represents the 35,000 member athletes in events and competitions around the world, including the Olympic Games.

But the huge success of the U.S. gymnastics team in Athens has paled a bit in comparison to what has happened to Penny and his wife Beth when triplets, Sarah, Ella and Stephanie were born April 1. The Pennys are thrilled.

“I am trying to keep my feet on the ground,” the new dad said.

As Penny and his wife were on the way to the hospital, the executive board at USA Gymnastics were voting on who would become the new CEO.

But his mind was elsewhere, Penny said.

“My new job kind of took a back seat to what happened to us that weekend,” he said.

Penny, a 1982 graduate of Mercer Island High School, played golf in high school. He was very involved, he said, and had a lot of friends.

“Coming from Mercer Island, Washington, is a great source of pride for me,” he said.

Penny has been involved in sports management for almost 25 years, beginning with community affairs and public relations with the Seattle Mariners. A 1987 graduate of the University of Washington, Penny worked on the 1990 Goodwill Games for Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta and later spent six years at USA Cycling. He returned to live on the Island for two years as he worked on the bid to have the 2012 Olympic Games in Seattle. He said he was very disappointed that the Seattle City Council voted against the idea.

It is rewarding to work with young athletes, he said.

“It’s been my honor to serve USA Gymnastics over the past six years and support some of the finest athletes in the world,” said Penny.

“We want to keep our momentum going,” he explained of the comeback of gymnastics over the last four Olympics, earning 56 medals in that time.

In his prior role at USA Gymnastics, Penny oversaw marketing, event operations and communications for the organization including sponsorships and television rights.

Their next biggest event will be this fall with the world gymnastics championships in Melbourne, Australia.

He said he is constantly in awe of the skill and focus of the athletes as they perform within the unforgiving constraints of the sport.

“When you consider how wide a balance beam is — just a few inches — I am always amazed.”

And with three tiny potential gymnasts in his life, there is much for Penny to be amazed about.

For more information about USA Gymnastics look online at