As a gymnastics coach, Jaime Alberto Gomez believed in his young athletes when they could not believe in themselves. He taught them to eat right, stay in shape and confront their fears. He helped many people reach new heights, on and off the gymnastics floor, friends said.
Diana Luna noticed a change in daughter Destiny's confidence when Gomez started coaching at Orlando Gymnastics about four months ago. He encouraged the 11-year-old to tackle the uneven bars and persuaded her to try out for the gymnastics team.
"He pushed her to that [next] level," Luna, 36, said.
Destiny and her teammates have a competition at the end of the month. But their coach won't be there to cheer them on. A car struck and killed the Kissimmee resident on Aug. 28 while he was out jogging along Orange Blossom Trail near the Orange-Osceola county line. He was 45.
"They're devastated. They're going to miss him," Luna said. The girls still plan to compete. They made Gomez a promise they would give it all they have, Luna said.
The coach, a native of Colombia, didn't have children. But he treated the young gymnasts as if they were his own kids. He gave each of them nicknames, Luna said. Destiny was "Princess."
Gomez left his homeland in 1989 and moved to Miami to teach gymnastics, said Thierry Dubroca, a friend and former roommate from Gainesville. The friends met in 2004 when Gomez moved in with him and worked at a gymnastics center in nearby Ocala.
According to Dubroca, the coach moved to Broward County around 2006 and started a gymnastics school but left after two years because of differences with his business partners. There were 600 kids enrolled at the school, Dubroca said.
Gomez eventually returned to Gainesville to work at another gymnastics center. But he was laid off when the economy slumped and became a consultant before moving to Central Florida, Dubroca said.
He worked with coaches around the state, teaching them to be better trainers. He conducted clinics for judges, telling them what to look for in competitions. He also traveled the country, scouting for rising gymnasts.
He knew the sport well. Gomez started competing in gymnastics as a young boy and became a coach before he reached 20 years old, Dubroca said.
He coached at various facilities in the area, including Legacy Gymnastics Center in Maitland. The school posted news of Gomez's death on its Facebook page. "Legacy, and the rest of the gymnastics community, will miss him greatly. R.I.P. Coach Jaime," the comment read.
"Jaime, you touched many lives in the sport gymnastics, and we will miss you," wrote Justina Sciarpelletti of DeBary.
His coaching didn't stop in the gymnastics world. He motivated his friends, too, Dubroca said.
"He pushed me to stay positive, more so in the down moments," he said. "He would remind me to always look at the [good]."
The pair planned to go to Colombia for Thanksgiving. Gomez traveled to his homeland several times to year to visiting his ailing mother, Adela Tovar, who lives in Medellin. Gomez had been financially supporting his mother, who is in her 80s.
Orlando Gymnastics is raising money to cover the costs of sending his body home and help the family with any expenses, Luna said. Dubroca also is collecting money. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to his mother, Gomez is survived by his sister, Rosana Gomez, and a nephew, both living in Colombia.
A Community Funeral Home & Sunset Cremations, Orlando, was in charge of arrangements.
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