Dominique Moceanu

Magnificent Seven gymnastics
Getty Images

How the Magnificent Seven 1996 Olympic gymnastics team was chosen

Leave a comment

Olympic Trials, often deemed tougher competition than the Olympics themselves, are typically filled with surprises and nail-biting. The drama for the 1996 U.S. women’s gymnastics team race occurred, for the most part, before trials began.

It came down to two days at Boston’s Fleet Center, three weeks before the Opening Ceremony. There, the top seven finishers in all-around competition were in line to make up the Olympic team.

It didn’t turn out to be that simple.

For one, the previous two national champions — Shannon Miller and Dominique Moceanu — came out of the U.S. Championships three weeks earlier with injuries (wrist tendinitis, tibia fracture). They chose to petition for spots on the Olympic team rather than attempt to compete while hurt at trials.

The process: their scores from nationals would be used. It was highly unlikely that five other gymnasts would better Miller and Moceanu, who placed first and third, respectively, at nationals. The duo watched trials inside the Fleet Center. USA Gymnastics reportedly confirmed they mathematically clinched spots after the first day of competition.

Back then, the two-day competition included compulsories, which counted for 60 percent of a final score, and optionals, which counted 40 percent.

Going into optionals, the standings looked like this:

Miller — 47.220 (from nationals)
Moceanu — 47.1 (from nationals)
Jaycie Phelps — 46.887
Dominique Dawes — 46.768
Kerri Strug — 46.588
Amy Chow — 46.377
Amanda Borden — 45.913
Beth Arnold — 45.568
Theresa Kulikowski — 45.433

The 14-woman field featured nine with world championships experience, plus future Olympians in Kristen Maloney (2000) and Mohini Bhardwaj (2004). The way compulsories shook out was hardly a surprise. Phelps was second at nationals, while Dawes, Strug and Borden also placed top six three weeks earlier.

Chow was a unique case. She was sixth in compulsories at nationals, then withdrew before optionals with back spasms.

At trials, on her last routine, she awkwardly fell off the balance beam, smacking her face on the apparatus. Chow had either 10 seconds or 30 seconds to remount the beam, depending on which report you believe. She did it within 10 seconds and finished the routine to remain, comfortably, in the top five.

Two of the top challengers — Kristy Powell and Theresa Kulikowski — fell in compulsories. They shared a coach — Tom Forster, who now oversees the U.S. women’s national team.

The last Olympic spot went to Amanda Borden, who missed the 1992 Olympic team. Borden would be named captain of the Magnificent Seven. The final Olympic Trials standings:

Shannon Miller — 78.380 (from nationals)
Dominique Moceanu — 78.220 (from nationals)
Dominique Dawes — 78.157
Kerri Strug — 78.108
Jaycie Phelps — 77.736
Amy Chow — 77.267
Amanda Borden — 77.162

Theresa Kulikowski — 76.491

MORE: Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin wear 2008 leotards for Olympic watch party

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

U.S. gymnasts give emotional testimony about sexual abuse

Getty Images
Leave a comment

WASHINGTON (AP) — Retired star gymnasts testified before Congress on Tuesday that they were sexually abused by USA Gymnastics officials.

Jamie Dantzscher, a 2000 Olympic bronze medalist, and three-time national champion rhythmic gymnast Jessica Howard recounted their experiences before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“USA Gymnastics failed its most basic responsibility to protect the athletes under its care,” Dantzscher said through tears.

Dominique Moceanu, a 1996 gold medalist, described a “culture of fear, intimidation and humiliation, established by Bela and Martha Karolyi,” the legendary coaches who are named in a civil lawsuit for physical abuse.

U.S. Olympic Committee official Rick Adams and Stafford County (Va.) Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen also testified. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the committee chairman, criticized USA Gymnastics for declining to testify.

The hearing concerns a bill that could reshape sex-abuse reporting guidelines in Olympic sports. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California is co-sponsoring a bill that calls on organizations overseeing Olympic sports to immediately report sex-abuse allegations to law enforcement or child-welfare authorities.

The bill and proposed changes to the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act come in the aftermath of the sex abuse scandal that led to the resignation of USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny.

Dantzscher and Howard told the committee of their abuses by Dr. Larry Nassar, who is in prison in Michigan and faces charges in the state and federal systems.

“They failed to take action against coaches, trainers and other adults who abused children,” Dantzscher said. “And they allowed Dr. Nassar to abuse young women and girls for more than 20 years.”

Howard said, “It has become glaringly obvious that USA Gymnastics has not done nearly enough to protect athletes from any form of abuse.”

Moceanu, now an advocate, spoke about her emotional and verbal abuse during her time with USA Gymnastics. She said there is an “urgent need” to change the culture of the organization.

Feinstein, who has been critical of USA Gymnastics’ handling of the sex-abuse scandal, said she met two months ago with former gymnasts who were abused as teenagers and carried the trauma with them as adults. Dantzscher and Howard said they didn’t realize until last year that Nassar had abused them.

As part of the proposed legislation, governing bodies under the USOC umbrella would be required to report allegations of sexual abuse to law enforcement and train employees on how to handle situations. The statute of limitations for victims to sue their abusers would also be extended.

“Young athletes should not have to fear victimization from coaches doctors and other officials,” Feinstein said at a news conference after the hearing.

Retired gymnast Jeanette Antolin also said at the news conference she was sexually abused by her first coach and praised the proposed legislation, saying “for so long we felt like we had no voice.”

Mattie Larson, a 2010 World Championships team member, also attended the news conference but did not speak.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: John Orozco retires, reflects on gymnastics career

Final Five throw acrobatic first pitches, like McKayla Maroney, Dominique Moceanu

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Olympic gymnasts have been throwing ceremonial first pitches for years, but only recently have flips and cartwheels become part of the routine.

On Saturday, Final Five members Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian performed those acrobatics en route to their tosses to home plate at MLB games.

In July, Simone Biles did the same at a Houston Astros contest.

Heck, even Magnificent Seven team member Dominique Moceanu did so at a minor-league game in August.

The first time a U.S. Olympic gymnast flipped for a first pitch, and it went viral, was in 2014, when McKayla Maroney did so at a Chicago White Sox game.

The other four 2012 Olympic team members — Gabby DouglasAly RaismanJordyn Wieber and Kyla Ross — have thrown first pitches of the more traditional variety. As have Nastia LiukinShawn JohnsonCarly Patterson and Mary Lou Retton (Retton once threw one underhand).

Of everyone, Kocian appeared to enjoy herself the most.

Her love for the Rangers may have sparked in June 1997, when her father had to leave a game at The Ballpark in Arlington during the first weekend of interleague play in MLB history for Kocian’s birth.

On Saturday, Kocian said she preferred meeting Rangers All-Star Adrián Beltré — and receiving an autographed bat — to Beyoncé at the MTV Video Music Awards six days earlier.

“It was very fun meeting Beyoncé, she was very nice, and I’m happy that we got to present her a VMA,” Kocian said Saturday. “But I’m a very big Rangers fan, so Beltré giving me the bat was just the cherry on top.”

MORE: Biles plans to take one year off

Olympian Dominique Moceanu flipping through the first pitch ⚾️🏅 #magnificent7

Posted by Lake Erie Crushers on Friday, August 12, 2016

Olympians @matt_ghaffari & @Dmoceanu threw out the first pitch. Wait until you see what happens! SportsCenterhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhYc2ncQ_0c

Posted by Lake Erie Crushers on Friday, August 12, 2016

View this post on Instagram

everyone told me not to do this

A post shared by McKayla Maroney (@mckaylamaroney) on