Summers for most midshipmen at the Naval Academy include eight weeks of training and four weeks of well-deserved leave to do as they please.
However, Navy gymnast Ian Dinmore isn’t like most midshipmen. This summer will mark the third time the Arundel graduate will opt out of taking leave, or any type of break for that matter.
Instead, Dinmore will spend his last leave block before his senior year shadowing doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. He has goals that go beyond graduating from the Naval Academy — namely attending medical school and ultimately becoming a trauma surgeon.
However, before the Odenton resident can even think about those lofty ambitions, he has more pressing matters this weekend — beating Army. Dinmore and the ninth-ranked Navy gymnastics team travel to West Point to face No. 11 Army in a meet that could come down to one or two routines by either team.
If the competition rests on the shoulders of Dinmore, coach Kip Simons likes Navy’s chances.
“The type of gymnastics that Ian does is a coach’s dream,” Simons said. “When he raises his hand, I can always pencil in the exact score. You know what you are going to get. When you go into a meet as big as we are this weekend, we need folks like Ian who are going to go out and get the job done.”
Gymnastics has been a part of Dinmore’s life since he was 4 years old. His mother said it all started by accident when her son was doing cartwheels.
“We had the whole house baby-proofed, but he managed to shift the foam on a piece of furniture and gave himself a Harry Potter scar. It was a deep one that we had to go get taken care of,” Jennifer Dinmore recalled. “That was the day I knew we had to find something to channel [his energy].”
Jennifer Dinmore, who retired from the Air Force and now works as a technology support technician with Anne Arundel County Public Schools, enrolled her son in First Gymnastics at a local elementary school. Ian tried a few other sports but eventually chose to focus on gymnastics.
He started training at Columbia-based Paragon Gymnastics, which meant a lot of family car rides for practice. All the commuting paid off as Dinmore became competitive in Maryland and eventually on the national stage, which drew the attention of elite college gymnastics programs such as Penn State and Ohio State.
However, Dinmore always had the military on his mind because both of his parents served in the Air Force, so when Navy began recruiting him, it just made sense.
At the academy, success in gymnastics didn’t come quickly. Dinmore failed to make the starting team as a freshman or sophomore.
“Ian’s been a workhorse [at practice] since day one of his plebe year, but it’s tough,” Simons said. “I guess you can’t say he was drowning in the classroom, but when you have a 4.0, it’s a different type of drowning. He has such high expectations for himself.”
Dinmore, who is one of only 28 in his class with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, credits his parents for laying the foundation for academic success.
“I think the most important thing I learned in high school is how to study and I’ve carried it through here at the academy. It’s not easy, but it’s worth every minute of it,” said Dinmore. “I had a really solid foundation laid by my parents.”
Dinmore saw the summer before his junior year as an opportunity to refocus on gymnastics. So instead of taking leave, he was able to intern with a Naval physician in the area — a decision that provided an extra four weeks to get into the gym at the academy after the workday was over.
“This [past] summer I took a long look at my gymnastics while everyone else was away and I said that I needed to figure something out because what I’m doing now isn’t working,” Dinmore said. “So I decided I was going to pare down and only do two events — the floor and the pommel horse. And I was really going to get good at those events.”
That strategy paid off during the annual Blue-Gold meet, where Dinmore finished as one of the top 15 gymnasts to finally make the cut.
“I’d been waiting such a long time. It was nice to finally feel like I earned a spot and I was carrying some responsibility to help the team succeed,” he said.
Dinmore finished in the top 10 for the floor exercise in this season’s first two meets, then took second in the same discipline and a third on the pommel horse to help Navy defeat William & Mary last weekend.
Now the biggest test though looms large Saturday.
“I think it’s always tough to go up there trying to beat Army in [its] own house, but if anyone can do it, it’s this team,” Dinmore said. “We don’t want to lose. We are not going to down without a fight. I think we are ready.”
Dinmore admitted he will be nervous before the meet, but those nerves won’t end regardless of the outcome. That’s because in a few days, he will find out the results of his Medical School Admission Test, which will go a long way in determining his future.
Dinmore has his sights on being one of about 10 midshipmen who are allowed to go to medical school upon graduation. If accepted into the program, it could add as many as seven years to the mandatory five-year service obligation.
“I joined the military with the intent to make it my career. It doesn’t bother me to look at that long commitment,” he said.
Student-athletes of Dinmore’s quality are rare but not uncommon at the Naval Academy, according to associate professor Leighanne Basta, who is mentoring Dinmore and a small group of midshipmen in the chemistry department who are studying bacterial enzymes in the hope of finding new antibiotics that target their function.
“I’ve certainly seen my fair share of amazing student-athletes come through my lab. I often attract these bright students who want to make a difference in the world and they have all performed incredibly well,” said Basta. “I’m not sure if it’s something in their DNA, but the time management and the maturity of these students … and Ian sort of encompasses all of that as being the quintessential student-athlete.”
Both Basta and Simons believes gymnastics is going to help Dinmore as he pursues his medical career in the Navy, and both of them said they look forward to hearing about his future successes.
“Ian is the one I’m going to have my eye on for sure because I can’t wait to see what he does. He’s just getting started. It’s cool for me to be a small part of his development,” Simons said.