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