heroic performance at the 1996 Olympic Games ensured the
States’ first-ever Team gold medal in
Women’s Gymnastics. She was recipient
of the 1996 Olympic Spirit Award.
Coached by Bela and Martha
Karolyi, Strug participated in five
World Championships beginning in
1991, winning Team silver medals in
1991 (at age 13) and 1994, and a Team
bronze in 1995. At the 1992 Olympic
Games, she won a bronze medal in
Team Combined Exercises.
The diminutive 4'9", 88-pound Kerri
Strug gave the Olympic Games one
of its memorable and historic moments
on July 23, 1996, as the last U.S. performer
in the Vault even finals. With the U.S. Women’s Team
at the brink of
capturing its first-ever gymnastics gold
medal, U.S. coaches and Olympic media
estimated that the American team
needed points only Strug could provide
in her final vault to give the Americans
But in her first vault, the 17-year old
Arizonan fell and suffered torn ligaments
and a third-degree sprain in her
left ankle. Her teammates, thousands of
arena spectators, and millions of television
viewers worldwide could readily
see Strug was in great pain and could
barely walk on her injured foot as she
consulted with coach Karolyi.
Opting to attempt her second and
final vault, Kerri hopped on one leg to
the start position, paused to gather herself,
and sprinted toward the vault, as
the world audience held its collective
breath. Her vault was virtually flawless,
as she nailed a near-perfect landing.
The gold medal in Women’s
Gymnastics Team belonged to the
A member of the U.S. Senior
Gymnastics Team from 1991 to
1997, specializing in Floor Exercises
and Uneven Bars, Kerri began
gymnastics at the age of five.
She won her first national title in
the All-Around event in 1989 at
the American Classic in Oakland,
California. In 1991, she was number
one in the Vault and third in
All-Around at the U.S. Championships.
Kerri would go on to finish
first, second, or third—individual
or team—in virtually
every national and international
competition she entered for the
next five years.
Kerri Strug entered the University
of California at Los Angeles
and retired as an amateur following
the 1996 Olympic Games.