High Holidays

Wandering Jews: Former Tucsonans thrive in new locales – Kerri Strug

Kerri Strug is a retired Olympic gold medal gymnast, best known for completing a vault on an injured ankle at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. She is now a program manager in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

How long did you live here?

I was born in Tucson in 1977 and lived there until I was about 13 years old. I then left to train in Houston, Texas, with Bela Karolyi.

How often do you return to Tucson? Do you still have family and friends here?

As often as I can! This year I have been able to get back about 12 days each month to see my husband and parents. Besides my parents, my aunt and uncle still live in Tucson. And my husband, Robert W. Fischer, just moved to Tucson in January to start a new job as a Pima County prosecutor. I still have many childhood friends in town and enjoy catching up with them when I’m back.

What was your favorite thing about Tucson?

My family and my sense of “home” were always my favorite things about Tucson. When I’m back I always connect with this meaningful and relaxing sense of being back home. I certainly miss that when I’m away.

 What did you learn or experience in Tucson that has most affected you in your present life?

My focus, dedication and commitment were developed with the guidance of my parents. And I was fortunate to be supported by all my early coaches and mentors in Tucson.

Have you taken something concrete from Tucson that reminds you of your life here?

Although I don’t carry anything specific that reminds me of my life in Tucson, my memories and thoughts of home are always on my mind. Wherever I travel, I think of myself as a Tucson girl.

 What big changes have occurred in your life since you left Tucson?

Well — I was able to live my dreams competing in two Olympic Games and winning a gold medal. I also built a career working with inspiring nonprofit organizations and community leaders. And of course, I am now married and hoping to start a family in the near future.

 How were you involved in the Tucson Jewish community?

Not as much as I would have liked. I spent so much time training and preparing for my gymnastics competitions that I couldn’t be as involved in the Jewish community as much as I wanted. It’s important to me that I get involved again when I do return and raise my children.

 Would you return to Tucson to live if you had the opportunity?

I do hope to return to Tucson someday soon.

What has most surprised/delighted you about Tucson’s growth since you left town?

I always enjoy trying the new restaurants. When I was a kid we went to a few favorite restaurants and now there are so many, I’ve got an endless list of places to try! I also enjoy the new developments up in the Foothills area.

 What would you most like to see change in Tucson if you were in charge?

I’d love for Tucson to develop a true long-term plan for jobs and growth. We have everything businesses should want when they scout new worksites. If I were in charge, I’d make sure that Tucson’s business and community leaders take the steps to make sure that our economy overachieves.

Kerri Strug, program manager at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency prevention, right, visits with students and faculty at Benjamin Orr Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

What’s the best thing about where you live now?

Something noteworthy or newsworthy happens every day of the year in Washington, D.C. The politics, the culture and the entertainment are always changing the world.




For more “Wandering Jews” profiles see Special Sections – High Holidays