Though comedy and gymnastics routines aren’t commonly associated with each other, gymnast Paul Hunt proves that there’s a way to combine the two and delight audiences everywhere.
As Hunt makes his way to the floor at the 1988 USA-USSR display in Los Angeles, it’s clear that he’s got a trick or two up the sleeves of his skirted leotard. With his pigtails firmly in place, Hunt, or Paulette Huntsinova (also known as Paulette Huntesque, Pauletta Huntenova, Paulette Huntinova or some similar variation), takes his mark at the corner of the mat. What follows is a masterfully executed series of pratfalls and belly flops in a gymnastics floor routine that showcases both Hunt’s impressive technical skill and his wonderful comedic timing. These moves are difficult enough to perform correctly, but even more difficult to mess up so spectacularly while avoiding injury. One commentator refers to Hunt as “a magnificent gymnast and quite a showman,” and this floor exercise program is a testament to that fact.
Hunt’s prodigious gymnastics skills in this special demonstration come as no surprise to those familiar with his work. According to the website of his gym, Hunt’s Gymnastics Academy in Midvale, Utah, he is a decorated gymnast. Hunt competed while attending the University of Illinois and was the Illinois State All-Around Champion in 1969, the Big 10 floor exercise champion in 1971 and the National floor exercise champion in 1972.
Following his career as a competitive gymnast, Hunt began coaching at an Olympic level in Utah. According to his gym’s website, the “Paulette” routine developed as a result of coaching female gymnasts. Through this caricature, Hunt provides young athletes with the chance to see their common mistakes and allows them to learn gymnastics with a sense of humor. Since its inception in 1971, the “Paulette” routine has been featured on both Wide World of Sports and America’s Funniest Videos. In addition to floor exercise, Paulette has also tackled the balance beam and uneven bars with her signature flair. No matter the event, Hunt’s antics are sure to lift the audience’s spirits.
Nowadays, Hunt is still active in the world of gymnastics; along with his daughter, Jessica, he teaches and coaches. Hunt’s Gymnastics Academy offers a variety of classes — from gymnastics and tumbling to aerial silks — to children and adults alike. The Academy’s mission is “to provide the highest quality of gymnastics and tumbling training to children of all ages, and to develop the maximum level of achievement in a safe environment at national standards.” While it’s unclear whether Paulette still makes appearances during training sessions, the routine is a reminder to find the fun in competitive sports and maintain a positive attitude.
Watch Hunt perform this delightful floor exercise in the clip below and share your thoughts with us in the comment section.