One of the most famous and popular gymnasts the world has ever seen, Kerri Strug faced adversity head on ever since she was a child, and she always came out on top. Competing in the Atlanta Olympics back in 1996 may have been Kerri Strug’s crowning achievement, given she won the team gold with the United States, but it is the hard work and dedication she gave to her sport that really sets her apart from the other prestigious champions of her generation. Strug began her road to the Olympics at the age of three, when she started training in gymnastics.
The First Competition
Strug’s first competition came at the age of eight, and her family eventually moved to Houston, Texas so she could train with the famous gymnastics coach, Bela Karolyi. It also marked the moment when she joined the United States’ national gymnastics team as its youngest member. When she took to the mats in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Strug was only 14 years old, but she helped the team win a bronze medal during those Olympic games. Unfortunately, she was edged out by her own teammates in the race to compete in the all-around finals, but her performance was still remarkable for a 14-year-old.
A defining Moment
When her coach and mentor, Bela Karolyi, decided to retire after the 1992 Olympic Games, Strug found herself at a bit of a crossroads. She was unsure about whether to continue with gymnastics, or pursue some other dream. Eventually, she decided to stick with gymnastics, as it was the sport she loved above anything else. She found a new coach in Steve Nunno, and she moved to Edmon, Oklahoma to train for the next major events and the 1996 Olympic Games. The time period between the two Olympic Games is probably what defined Strug’s entire career.
During an event in 1994, Strug had an issue with her uneven bars routine, which resulted in her releasing too early and losing control of her motion. The result was Struss landing in an awkward position in the middle of a routine and seriously injuring her back. Her teammates and coaches feared the worst at the time, but it turned out to be a badly pulled muscle in her back. She would be able to return to competition, but the rehabilitation was grueling, and most gymnasts struggle to recapture their old form following a serious injury.
The Atlanta Games showed the resilience and tenacity of Keri Strug, because she managed to help the United States win team gold despite injuring herself during her first vault attempt. Strug badly hurt her ankle during the first attempt, yet she managed to find the inner strength and tenacity to get up and complete another vault. Despite running and jumping on what was effectively one foot, Strug managed to get a respectable score on her vault, and her second attempt was enough to get the United States over the line for team gold. It is this type of sacrifice and team ethic that made Strug a gymnast we will never forget.