The Heroine of the Gym

October 19, 2008
If there is somebody who every young gymnast looks up to, it should be the 1996 Olympian, Kerri Strug. After being overshadowed first by Kim Zmeskal and then by Dominique Moceanu and Shannon Miller, Kerri Strug finally proved herself in the Atlanta Olympics. After being injured on her first vault, Kerri knew what she had to do to ensure that the USA would win the Gold Medal. She ignored the pain and discomfort in her ankle and flipped her second vault near flawlessly, and is the ultimate example of “taking one for the team”. Her utmost determination and loyalty to the team are two of many reasons why Kerri Strug should be a role model for all young athletes.

After Kerri’s amazing showing in the 1992 Olympics only to have Kim Zmeskal come from behind and knock her out of eligibility to compete in the all-around competition, Kerri’s gymnastics career could have been over right there. She had coaching problems and suffered injuries, yet she was determined to compete in at least one more Olympic Game. Kerri was never the best gymnast of the pack. Always being outshined by the up-and-comers or the most experienced veterans, took a toll on her, but she still never gave up. If anything, this fueled Kerri to keep pushing through all of the adversity to make it to the spotlight. What young athletes should take away from this is that if one works hard and has passion for what they do, even if they are not the best, their time to shine will come.
In 1996 during the team competition, vault was the final event and Kerri was last to go. It was up to her to secure the gold medal because Dominique Moceanu had just preformed before her, and fell on both of her landings. Kerri needed a solid score to make sure the Soviet Union didn’t come from behind and beat them. Because vault was Kerri’s best and favorite event, it was ironic when she fell on her first vault also. Unfortunately, that’s not all she did. On that first attempt, she also severely sprained her ankle. However, Kerri would not let this faze her. She stood up slightly shocked and walked back to her starting place. Though Kerri couldn’t even feel if her ankle was still attached to her leg or not, she was aware of the fact that the team’s fate relied on her. Kerri knew that she had to take this second vault to clinch the gold for sure, even if it risked her ankle’s health and her chances to compete in the all-around, which had been her dream since childhood. She pushed her pain, emotions, and personal wellbeing aside to guarantee a win for the United States, which is exactly what she did when she landed her second vault almost perfectly on one foot. Anybody willing to sacrifice themselves for an important team effort is worth being a hero or heroine.
Personally, in my life Kerri Strug has always inspired me. If I’m feeling pain in the gym (especially on vault) I think of Kerri and how she worked through throbbing soreness which makes me push myself also. Kerri Strug finally got her time in the limelight and with good reason. Even though winning the all-around was her dream for fame, Kerri’s story is unique and makes her more heroine-worthy than any all-around winner. She is the perfect example of how a lifetime of hard work and dedication will pay off in the end, even if it was not the expected way.

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