Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel
Now that summer is here and people are jumping with joy, it’s the perfect time to recognize the achievements of gymnast, publisher and showman extraordinaire Glenn Sundby.
The founder and publisher of International Gymnast magazine and one of the founders of the The United States Gymnastics Federation and The International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, Sundby put gymnastics in the public eye and helped it to gain recognition as a sport.
Known for his trademark greeting “Have a Happy Handstand!” Sundby was a virtuoso at doing handstands
He even earned a spot in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not for a stunt he did in 1949 – walking down all 898 steps of the Washington Monument…on his hands!
SurfWriter Girl Sunny Magdaug knows from her own experience what an amazing person Sundby was. He gave her her first writing job after college covering gymnastics events all over Europe. Handing her a Nikon camera and a list of sports events and contacts, he sent her on her way.
She even got her own column with a byline “Sunny’s Side of Gymnastics.”
“It was an unbelievable opportunity,” says Sunny. “Thanks to Glenn, I was able to be an international sports journalist and write stories about top gymnasts from around the world.”
Growing up in Los Angeles, Sundby (1921-2009) was fascinated by Hollywood’s movie stuntmen and the bodybuilders who used to hang out at Santa Monica’s famed Muscle Beach.
With Jack LaLanne, Vic Tanny and Joe Gold as his role models, Sundby honed his own athletic ability and soon joined forces with former professional wrestler George Long to form a touring acrobatic act The Wayne-Marlin Trio that included his sister Dolores.
During the 1950s the trio traveled across the country performing with legendary musician and bandleader Spike Jones. It also appeared on TV’s The Ed Sullivan Show.
In 1956, after starting an earlier gymnastics magazine, Sundby started International Gymnast (originally called The Modern Gymnast) and worked tirelessly to build interest in gymnastics and the competitors. This was especially true for Olympics events. “To me every Olympic competitor is important,” said Sundby. “They are the best from their country. Win or lose, it is an honor they can pass on to their grandchildren with pride.”
With Glenn Sundby as its primary booster, the audience for gymnastics grew exponentially, earning America not only a place on the international stage, but the winners podium.
As Sundby would say, that’s reason to celebrate… and have a happy handstand!
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