MAMARONECK, N.Y. – Michele DaBramo O’Malley has come a long way in 40 years.
The former gymnast pioneered a trail for the thousands of female athletes who followed her in the decades since she performed her last routine. Now, she works as an educator to give back to the educational system in which she flourished for years.
O’Malley was the first female athlete in Westchester to receive the Con Edison Athlete of the Week Award just before President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into effect in 1972. Today, she works as a special education teacher for Southern Westchester BOCES, a job she has held for the past 30 years. She currently teaches students with severe behavior and conduct disorders at Port Chester Middle School.
O’Malley grew up in Mamaroneck and went through the Rye Neck school system. She trained in gymnastics from age 7 to age 21.
“When I say trained, I mean eat, slept and lived gymnastics,” O’Malley said.
When O’Malley began her career in gymnastics, the sport had not really been heard of yet throughout Westchester County. But her coach and two-time Olympian Vince D’Autorio and her father, Dee DaBramo, involved her in the sport and were instrumental in promoting it throughout Westchester.
“They were very ahead of their time,” O’Malley said. “I was doing backflips on a wooden balance beam before anybody thought of it.”
O’Malley went around to different high schools and put on shows and exhibitions. Through the years, more coaches trained in gymnastics and a large influx of teams flooded into Westchester.
She also competed in field hockey from ninth through 12th grade, played volleyball and was a cheerleader for a short time. But gymnastics was always her passion and she took her skills to Springfield College, which had the No. 1 gymnastics team in the nation at the time, in 1972. She graduated from the school in 1976.
O’Malley is waiting to hear from the Westchester Sports Hall of Fame and the Rye Neck High Athletic School Hall of Fame. In the meantime, she and her 12-year-old daughter, whom O’Malley tried to nudge toward gymnastics but has more of a passion for soccer, will be watching the 2012 Summer Olympics. The two will watch the men’s and women’s gymnastics and soccer teams throughout the Olympics.
O’Malley graduated from Rye Neck High School in 1972. What she started 40 years ago continues to this very day.
“Women have really come a long way,” O’Malley said, “especially in the field of gymnastics.”