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This college gymnast stuck the landing — then whipped out his coronavirus vaccine card

University of Illinois gymnast Evan Manivong held up his vaccine card to celebrate a career-high routine during a March 22 meet. (Video: Big Ten Network)
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It was a move that put other vaccine selfies to shame.

In a March meet against Minnesota, University of Illinois gymnast Evan Manivong sprinted toward the vault, launched into the air, spun and stuck the landing, nailing his routine and tying his career-high. As his teammates cheered, Manivong clapped and celebrated and then whipped out a coronavirus vaccination card that was tucked in his leotard and flashed it for the cameras.

For Manivong, a 20-year-old sophomore, it had started as a joke with his teammates. But the video of the athletic feat and vaccine enthusiasm struck a chord with others.

A clip has been viewed more than 1 million times since the Athletic’s Olivia Witherite resurfaced it Monday, calling Manivong’s stunt “the ultimate flex.” Some people joked that they planned to leap into bars, restaurants and airports with the same agility. Others said they would feel just as proud as Manivong to possess the small, white card given to those who have been vaccinated.

“This is what I will look like in my head after getting vaccinated,” researcher Paul Fairie tweeted.

Manivong said he practiced the routine he was sure he would clinch with the card in advance so he would be ready to revel once he landed.

“I felt pretty confident,” he said in an interview Monday with The Washington Post. “I did my warm-up with my vaccination card in there so I knew it was all good and ready.”

Manivong and his teammates, who were vaccinated about a month and a half ago, had joked that he would show off his card at the meet. When he landed, receiving a 14.750, Manivong pulled out the card, seemingly to the delight of his teammates and confusion for the commentators. The card’s black type was not immediately visible on screen.

“Not sure what that is,” one of the announcers said.

“Vaccine card?” he speculated.

“Whatever it is, if that’s what it takes, sign me up for one of those cards,” the announcer said. “That was amazing.”

The team’s account later shared the video on Twitter: “We’re not sure what was on that card either.”

“It’s my vaccination card ... go get vaccinated everyone!” Manivong wrote back.

The card, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and designed to help people keep track of which shot they have had and when, has become a recognizable symbol as many people have posted selfies with it to signify they have been vaccinated.

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Since the clip gained fame, his teammates quipped that he’s become a role model for getting the vaccine, an assignment the gymnast said he is happy to take on.

Being vaccinated, for Manivong, means achieving “peace of mind.” The advertising major and college athlete is tested three times a week for the virus at school and cannot return home to Kansas City unless he quarantines, which would not work with his practice schedule.

“It’s just nice knowing that my chance of getting covid-19 has been significantly reduced,” he said. “I don’t plan to do anything more than what I’ve been doing, just putting my head down and put in the work for gymnastics.”

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