4 minute read

Kerri Strug

The Historic Vault

Although Strug's teammates did well in the beginning of the competition, Moceanu fell on both of her vault attempts. Gymnasts are generally taught to focus on their performances, not their scores, so by the time Strug prepared to vault, the American team had not been averaging their posted scores and so did not know how close they were to the Russians. By Karolyi's calculations, Strug, the final competitor in the final team event, needed to earn at least a 9.6 on the vault to secure the gold medal for the American team. On the first of her two vaults, Strug also fell, landing wrong on her ankle and limping back to the starting line, visibly injured. When her 9.162 score was posted, Strug believed that she would have to complete the second vault for her team to win, and she was urged by Karolyi and her teammates to shake off her injury. Although Strug had heard something snap in her ankle on her first vault, and her leg was numb, she decided to complete her second vault. She sprinted down the runway, executed a clean vault, and landed solidly on both of her feet, the grimace on her face revealing the obvious pain that she was feeling standing on her injured ankle. After the few seconds necessary to stick her vault and give the customary acknowledgement to the judges, Strug collapsed to the mat and cried for help. Her courageous vault earned Strug a 9.712 score, more than enough to secure the gold medal for the American team.

Unfortunately, in the process, Strug sprained her ankle and tore two ligaments. As in the bittersweet 1992 Olympics, when she helped her team win a bronze medal but did not qualify to compete in the all-around singles event, Strug was prevented from achieving this ultimate Olympic dream once again. This time, she had earned a spot in the singles competition, but the severity of her ankle injury prevented her from competing.

Awards and Accomplishments

Strug was a six-year member of the United States National Gymnastics Team.
1989 First place all around at the American Classic, California and second place all around at the American Classic, Texas
1990 Second place for uneven bars and balance beam, Dutch Open
1991 First place for vault, United States Gymnastics Championships; becomes the youngest female ever to win an event at this competition
1991 First place for vault, United States vs. Romania
1991 Team silver medal in World Championships
1992 Finished first place for vault and balance beam, second place for all-around competition and floor exercises at the United States Gymnastics Championships
1992 Helped United States women's gymnastics team earn Olympic bronze medal; at fourteen, Strug is the team's youngest member
1993 First place all around, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise, American Classic/World Championships Trials
1993 First place for uneven bars and second place for all around, balance beam, and floor exercise at the United States Olympic Festival Second place for uneven bars at the Coca-Cola National Championships
1993 First place for balance beam and second place all around at the McDonald's American Cup
1993 Second place all around at the Reebok International Mixed Pairs
1994 Second place all around at the NationsBank World Team Trials
1994 Silver medal in Team World Championships
1995 First place all around and for uneven bars at the United States Olympic Festival
1995 Team bronze medal in World Championships
1996 First place all around at the McDonald's American Cup; also first place for balance beam and floor exercise, and second place for vault and uneven bars
1996 Clinched United States women's gymnastics team's first ever Olympic gold medal
1996 Won Olympic Spirit Award for performing her famous vault on an injured ankle during the 1996 Olympics

Where Is She Now?

Strug's ankle injury in the Olympics got worse after she performed on it for various publicity tours and promotional stunts without giving it time to heal properly, which ultimately meant that her competition days were over. She turned her focus to education instead. After graduating from Stanford University with bachelor's and master's degrees, Strug began a career in elementary education. She currently lives in Palo Alto California, and works as a second-grade teacher in the San Francisco Bay area. Since the 1996 Olympics she has endorsed several charities, including DARE, Pediatric AIDS, Make-a-Wish Foundation, Childhelp, and NO-ADDiction. As part of these and other promotions, Strug has sometimes performed in gymnastics events, although she avoids high-impact gymnastics moves to minimize the strain on her ankle. Partially as an attempt to strengthen her weak ankle, Strug took up running. In 1999, she completed her first marathon.

Strug's heroic vault and the American team's gold medal created a media blitz that had several effects, both positive and negative. It was revealed that Karolyi's calculations were incorrect, and Strug did not even have to vault for the women's team to win the gold medal. While some chose not to focus on this fact, and instead catapulted Strug to instant fame as a symbol of Olympic bravery and strength, others used her vault to add fuel to the idea that the particular rigors associated with women's gymnastics were destructive to young girls. Strug herself was outspoken about this issue, giving her support to Karolyi and saying that it was her decision to vault. In highly publicized interviews she noted the double standard, where people try to protect female athletes from injuring themselves, while male athletes injure themselves just as much and are considered brave and tough for their efforts.

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsGymnasticsKerri Strug Biography - A Lifelong Passion, Triumph And Heartbreak, Chronology, The Historic Vault, Awards And Accomplishments - CONTACT INFORMATION, SELECTED WRITINGS BY STRUG: