June 07, 2012 01:00 PM

Robert Fischer III

When it comes to Kerri Strug‘s greatest accomplishment, her gold medal has some competition.

The Olympic gymnast welcomed her first child, Tyler William, on March 1, and the new mom says the experience was everything she thought it could be.

“Life is great,” Strug, 34, tells PEOPLE with a smile.

“I understand it now, the immediate love. And there’s a willingness to put your child in front of everything else no matter what, under any circumstance.”

That even includes those times when circumstances conflict with Mom’s much-needed shut-eye.

“He likes to keep us on our toes, because just when we think he’s into the schedule and he starts to sleep through the night, he’ll surprise us,” says Strug.

“Life just changes. I’m very Type A, I like to get my list done. But things that seem so important to accomplish each day no longer seem relevant.”

As for Tyler’s future, Strug knows just what people are wondering. And yes, she will put her child in gymnastics classes, but not with any pressure from his Olympian mom, she says.

“I think gymnastics is a wonderful foundation for other sports, and they have all of these mommy-and-me type classes — that’s how I got started — so I’m definitely going to put him in there,” she says.

“But I hope he will find what he likes. Anything is fine. I think it’s just really important for youth today to have a passion and pursue something seriously.”

Meanwhile, Strug’s husband of two years, attorney Robert Fischer III, is gunning for one sport in particular, and there’s no vaulting involved.

“My husband, like many men, is an avid golfer — I don’t think he would come out and verbalize it, but I think he’s really hoping Tyler will be a golfer!” Strug says with a laugh.

Sixteen years after her golden moment, Strug is returning to the Olympics — and being recognized for that monumental vault all over again.

Strug, now a project manager for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, says she gets calls from friends who are seeing her memorable Olympic moment replayed on TV in anticipation of the London Games.

“It’s exciting to know I have had a lasting impression on the American public and people remember my moment,” she says.

As for this year’s Olympics, Strug is working with Hilton HHonors Support the Dream, which allows fans to send motivational messages to their favorite Olympic athletes (each message sent means a donation toward the refurbishments at the U.S. Olympic Training Center where many athletes live).

“You never know how those messages are going to impact an athlete and what it will mean to them,” says Strug. “Not everybody can actually go to an Olympic Games, but this gives people the opportunity to feel like they’re involved.”

And when it comes to this year’s gymnasts, Strug thinks Team USA has a great shot at striking gold. “The girls have been dominating the world for a very long time now,” she says. “This year’s team is going to do remarkably well.”

Robert Fischer III

— Rennie Dyball

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