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Leigh Hennessy Inducted into USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame

Former UL Athlete Leigh Hennessy
Inducted into USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame

by Mark B. Robson

Leigh Hennessy, who won numerous national and world championships while competing as a member of the UL trampoline team in the 1970’s, was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame during the 2007 Visa Championships in San Jose, California, in August.  Leigh was raised in Lafayette and earned a B.A. as well as a master’s degree in communication at UL.
The USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame is the ultimate honor that is bestowed on only a small number of gymnasts and coaches who reached the highest level in their respective sports.  Her father, the legendary UL trampoline coach, Jeff Hennessy, was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1992.  They are the only father-daughter team in the Hall of Fame. 
Other members of the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame include Olympic gold medal winners Bart Conner, Mary Lou Retton, Peter Vidmar, Kerri Strug, Dominique Dawes, and Shannon Miller. 
During her acceptance speech in San Jose, Leigh noted that becoming a world champion while a member of the UL trampoline team “was not an unattainable, unimaginable goal.”  In fact, because she was surrounded by national and world champions, and coached by the most successful trampoline coach in history, it was considered normal. 
Leigh won her first world title at the age of 14 at the World Age-Group Championships.  Later, as a UL student-athlete, she won many more world titles, bringing even greater fame and prestige to a UL trampoline team that Jeff Hennessy had groomed into the best in the world.
In 1978, Leigh was the first athlete, male or female, to win all three trampoline events at a national championships.  She eventually earned a place in Guinness World Records for winning the most US national championships for women.
At the 1978 World Age-Group Championships, she also won all three events.  That same year at the World Championships, she set the world record score for women’s double mini-tramp, a record that stood until 1992.  She was named the Southern AAU Athlete of the Year in 1978.  The International Trampoline Federation honored her in 1982 for her lifetime achievements, and she is also a member of World Acrobatics Society Hall of Fame.
As a world-class athlete, Leigh represented the United States around the world, and in 1974 she was a member of the first U.S. trampoline team to compete in the Soviet Union. 
Over the past several years, Leigh has established herself as a leading actress and stunt performer in film and television.  Her most notable credits include working as Demi Moore’s stunt double in GI Jane and starring in the opening scenes of The Guardian with Kevin Costner, for which she was nominated for a Taurus World Stunt Award in 2007.
Leigh currently lives in Van Nuys, California. 

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Former UL athlete Leigh Hennessy and her father, Jeff Hennessy, at the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame ceremony in San Jose, California, in August, 2007.  Leigh joined her father in the Hall of Fame in 2007, making the Hennessys the only father and daughter in the Hall of Fame.

Mark B. Robson received his Ph.D. in English Literature from UL in 1984.  He played and coached soccer for UL, leading the team to its first championship in 1976.  He is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.