media perpetuates the myth of Kerri Strug

by Rick McCharles

04719strug.jpgI’ve always admired Kerri Strug, “hero” of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

But not for landing her second vault on an injured ankle in the Team Final. That was a mistake. Kerri was a victim of bad coaching.

Actually, I admire Kerri for persisting to compete in two Olympics. For coming back from injury. For moving club-to-club after Bela Karoli retired in order to continue her career.

I admire the fact that Kerri persisted despite often being in the shadow of higher profile American team mates.

I admired her coverage of the 2004 Games as Yahoo! Sports’ Olympic gymnastics analyst. She was “disappointed in the actions of Paul Hamm” (my opinion too) while many other American analysts rushed to defend Hamm.

But the oft repeated myth that Kerri won the gold medal for the USA over Russia in the 1996 Olympics with the “famous” 2nd vault grates. Anyone who does even 5 minutes of research knows that the gold was clinched on her first vault.

… “We had no idea what the score was,” said co-head coach Mary Lee Tracy. ..

Time magazine

Click PLAY or watch Kerri in the team vault final on YouTube.

Why did the USA not have people assigned to track team scores?

I was outraged at the time. And it still irks 3 Olympiads later.

On the other hand, Bela or Mary Lee would have had to physically restrain Kerri from taking that second vault. It would have been a gutsy, decisive coaching move.

I would respect Bela a lot more if he had stopped her. (Certainly it was Bela’s call.)

I would respect the media more if they would report Kerri’s story accurately. How many times are we going to hear it misrepresented leading up to Beijing?

Strug.jpg

The Official Web Site of Gymnast Kerri Strug

Kerri’s dismount on an injured ankle reminds old-timers of Shun Fujimoto — the World’s Toughtest Gymnast — who actually did win the team gold for Japan at the 1976 Olympics. Landing his rings dismount on a broken patella.

Many years after, Fujimoto admitted that doing that rings routine was a mistake. He was sorry he had kept the injury hidden from coaches who he felt, quite correctly, would have scratched him from the apparatus.

Perhaps I’m being too critical of Bela. Leave a comment below if you have anything to add.

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Rick Mc

Career gymnastics coach who loves the outdoors, and the internet.

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