Rising Gymnastics Sensation Who Paid for College Through Social Media Leads Collaboration for Athletes To Own Share In Sports Legacy

Published 12/20/2023, 9:20 AM EST

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Sophomore Ian Gunther was named College Gymnastics Association Specialist of the Week with Donte McKinney of Minnesota and excelled at the International Collegiate Open. His standout performance propelled Stanford to victory over Cal and a strong second-place finish behind reigning Olympic champions, Team Japan. Gunther triumphed in three events (PH, SR, HB) and placed third in PB, scoring impressively—-13.850 on pommel horse and 13.800 on rings, closely trailing national team elites.

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Gunther’s journey to success was anything but conventional. Initially facing financial hurdles, he ingeniously utilized social media to pay off his college fees. Today, as a celebrated champion, his recent achievements have elevated the pride of his college community.

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Recently, the College Gymnastics Association (CGA) shared an enticing Instagram post featuring a captivating ring crafted from a snapped high bar. The caption urged followers to donate to the CGA before noon PT on 12/31 for a chance to win their very own All-Star Ring, meticulously manufactured by a Stanford gymnast, @iandgunther! Each $25 donation secured an entry into the raffle (maximum of 4 entries per person), and the lucky winner would be announced on 1/4.

Another image accompanied the post, highlighting the partnership with Stanford gymnast Ian Gunther. It reads, “IN PARTNERSHIP WITH STANFORD GYMNAST, IAN GUNTHER, EACH #CGAALLSTAR APPARATUS WINNER RECEIVED A UNIQUE RING MANUFACTURED FROM A LEGENDARY RETIRED HORIZONTAL BAR.” This partnership between Ian Gunther and CGA aims to commemorate the legacy of the sport by repurposing a retired piece of gymnastics equipment into unique rings for the winners of the #CGAALLSTAR.

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Ian Gunther’s path to financial stability

A former Stanford University graduate, Ian Gunther took the U.S. Gymnastics Championships by storm with a high bar routine that includes his signature move, a distinctive skill not replicated by others (although its specifics remain undisclosed). Leveraging the recent NCAA change in its name, image, and likeness (NIL) rule, which now permits profiting from one’s own NIL during college—a privilege previously limited to professional athletes—Gunther actively utilized social media platforms. With over a million followers on TikTok and 866 thousand subscribers on YouTube, his online success not only stabilized his finances to the extent of paying off his Stanford tuition but also facilitated his continuation in elite gymnastics.

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Gunther’s rise to social media stardom showcased how athletes navigate the changing landscape, utilizing platforms to secure their financial futures while pursuing their athletic passions. “I wouldn’t say it’s changed the trajectory of things because I think I would still be doing the same thing, just maybe crashing in a teammate’s dorm all year instead of having an apartment.

Watch this story: “Beat You”: Gymnastics’ Emerging Sensation Challenges Simone Biles for the Lead.

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Written by:

Maleehah Shakeel

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Hey, I'm a fervent US sports writer at EssentiallySports, where my passion for sports seamlessly intertwines with the art of storytelling. I've honed my skills in crafting engaging narratives and offering insightful analysis within the realm of US sports, with a special expertise in equestrian sports. Equestrian sports aren't merely a fascination; they hold an irreplaceable spot in my heart.
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Edited by:

Saumya Khanduja

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