An Interview with Former United States Gymnast Janet Cantwell-Papale – Part 2

During Part 1 of my exclusive Yahoo interview we learned about Cantwell-Papale’s early years, the advice she has to offer about today’s economy and the roads that her athletic and coaching careers led her to.

Meeting Vince

Cantwell-Papale told me that Invincible’s depiction of how she and her husband met is different than the real life version of what actually happened.

“We met at Jack Kelly’s house in 1976. Vince was with Harold Carmichael.” (Kelly was a four-time Olympic oarsman and an Olympic medal winner. He was also the brother of movie-star Grace Kelly, who later became Princess Grace of Monaco. Carmichael was a star Wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles at the time.)

She lightheartedly noted that she wasn’t impressed by Vince that day. Her sister was dating the quarterback from Penn State, so being around football players was no big deal to her.

After not seeing each other again for many years, they happened to be on a Board together in 1992. The Board was involved in providing after school activities for children.

“I went off to Europe and then to Barcelona for the Olympics. A friend told me that Vince was a really nice guy. I knew that he was smart as well, so we started talking and became friends.

“Within two months of going out, Vince said that I had to marry him. He said that in February, 1993. By August we were married.”

A parent and a spouse

Janet and Vince have two children. Gabriella, 17 and Vincent Joseph, 14.

“I waited until I was 40 to get married. I wasn’t going to do it until it was right. Vince believed in me and saw my strengths.

“We are parents first. We are out there trying to do good, to give back, and leave a mark on the world.”

Cantwell-Papale has drawn from her own childhood and her experience in raising two children when it comes to parenting.

“I don’t know if there is a formula. A good parent supports their children, lets them take risks and also lets them fail. Sometimes kids turn out better when they haven’t been coddled.”

In addition to caring for their children, Janet and Vince look out for each other. It was through his wife’s urging that Vince had a cancer checkup in 2001.

It was good that she urged him to do so, because Doctor Tony Infantolino found that he had colorectal cancer during Vince’s checkup. Fortunately, it was detected early enough to allow him to beat the disease.

“I’m like Vince’s life coach. I help him to redefine what his goals are and what needs to be done.”

Learn more about Vince through my exclusive Yahoo Sports series: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. You can also visit to read about the positive efforts that the Papale’s are currently involved in.


The Disney movie Invincible and Papale’s first book, Invincible – My Journey From Fan to Team Captain were both released in 2006.

“We don’t think of ourselves as famous. We haven’t changed. There are more challenges for our kids, than for us.”

Current pursuits

“I wasn’t happy with just having the movie come out. That is why Vince and I have worked on other projects, including a new book. It’s about the principals people should live by.”

Papale’s Playbook: You Can Be Invincible In Tough Times…Analyze, Adapt and Achieve, is scheduled to come out this summer. They also have a vitamin line that is set to be introduced later this year as well.

“People have to go back to the basics. Like Vince says, everyone has their Invincible moments.”

Final thoughts

“I was 40 when I had a baby and that was good. Our life has been like a whirlwind, but it feels like we are newlyweds. Everything is always new and exciting.”

Cantwell-Papale’s final thoughts were encouraging and also reflective of her positive, can-do nature, “It’s easy to give up. Be proactive and take control of your life. If you have to start over, then start over. Keep going and pursue your dreams.”

I have written professionally since 1990. Follow me on Twitter @ SeanyOB