Baby Liam, who inspired UCLA’s women’s gymnastics team, dies at age 2

UCLA gymnast Mercedez Sanchez holds her 1-year-old brother Liam Clark.
UCLA gymnast Mercedez Sanchez holds her brother Liam Clark in February.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Liam Clark, the younger brother of former UCLA gymnast Mercedez Sanchez who inspired the team’s childhood cancer awareness meet last season, died Monday after a fight with acute myeloid leukemia. He was 2 years old.

“It is with great sadness and absolute heartbreak that I say our 2 year old beautiful baby Liam went to Heaven yesterday,” the family wrote on Instagram on Tuesday. “He has no more pain, no chemo, no one poking him and he is free. He was the happiest, amazing light and he is now my angel watching over us.”

Liam, who underwent his first chemotherapy treatment on his first birthday, completed five rounds of treatment and was deemed cancer-free Feb. 20. The UCLA gymnastics team hosted a childhood cancer awareness meet in his honor three days later, encouraging fans to sign up to donate blood and bone marrow.

Mercedez Sanchez is trying to work her way into the rotation on the UCLA gymnastics team. For inspiration, she need only look at her baby brother.


As Liam transitioned from cancer patient to cancer survivor over the next 10 months, he and his family enjoyed trips to the beach and park and swimming. His blond hair grew back and he smiled in photos and videos shared on social media. The family drove to Missouri to visit his grandparents. A year after celebrating Halloween in the hospital while receiving treatment, Liam celebrated the day this year at a local farm looking at pumpkins.

Seeing his growth brought joy to the family during hardship spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic that crippled the family’s gymnastics gym in Chatsworth.

Liam grew sick Nov. 12 and was put on a ventilator when his condition unexpectedly deteriorated.

Doctors initially believed he experienced an allergic reaction to medicine, but they later discovered Liam needed emergency surgery to remove fluid buildup in his brain. He underwent a second surgery to remove a mass that had gone undetected.

Following the surgeries, Liam didn’t show any brain function and he was placed on life support.

Liam is survived by his grandparents, mother Rosemarie, father Chris and sister Mercedez, who transferred to San Jose State following her senior year with the Bruins. The family is fundraising online for Liam’s funeral expenses and medical treatment.