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Kerri Strug: How the Romanians won

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Latest: Friday September 22, 2000 03:28 AM

  Svetlana Khorkina Svetlana Khorkina of Russia struggled again in the all-around competition by falling off the uneven bars. Franck Fife/AFP

Kerri Strug, star of the gold-medal-winning United States Olympic team in 1996, analyzed the women's all-around competition for

There was something going on with girls falling all over the place. It wasn't like it was just one person. There were a bunch of falls.

It's gymnastics. It's not easy. I mean, you can miss a serve in tennis, or you can miss a basket, but in gym, if you fall, you fail. That's it. You can't make a mistake.

In a big competition like this, you get nervous. You get tired. You can find every excuse under the sun. But you have to hit your routines to win.

In the case of the favorite, Svetlana Khorkina, of Russia, she fell on her first vault. Usually she does great vaults. Probably after that, she was just like, "Whatever." On the vault, she landed short when she under-rotated and didn't make it all the way around.

The vault she does is very difficult. I have no idea how she does it. She does like a one-and-a-half twist forward off the horse with a half-turn. I never did that difficult a vault.

Khorkina has had some big falls in key competitions. She was supposed to be a shoo-in in Atlanta, and she fell. Then, she fell in the team competition. She's falling on moves that are really hard.

That's part of the problem. The code is getting really hard and the girls are doing more tricks, and of course they are falling.

A problem with the vault being set nearly two inches too low for the first two rotations may have contributed to some early falls. That type of thing should not happen with the equipment.

This is the Olympics. This is is not some piddly, squat little meet. Having the vault set wrong is like having the diving board at the wrong height, or the pool too short. That's like out of control.

That's ridiculous. For these girls, it totally sets your mindset. If you start on vault and you fall on both vaults, that's going to affect your meet.

Letting them come back and do the vaults over at that end, well, that's not the same as starting out. That's not cool. For Elise Ray, who fell on both vaults, I was thinking that it was not going to be a good night for her. But it was not her fault. Vaulting is a pretty scary event. You are running down at high speed. If the vault is wrong, you can miss your hands or your feet, and you can land on your neck. They are lucky no one was seriously hurt. That's out of control.

The United States girls did their best. But when Ray fell on her first two vaults, I knew that it was not going to be a good night for her. She got to do those vaults over the end, because the vault had been set wrong, and finished 14th, but when you miss the vaults early, that can set the tone for the rest of the day.

Kristen Maloney, who finished 20th, was clean to the end until she fell on her beam dismount, which is really uncharacteristic of her. She did her routines, and that is all we can expect from her right now.

And Amy Chow, who finished 15th, did fine. Like the others, Amy is good, but neither she nor the others are as clean or as perfect as the Romanians. They should be happy with their performances.

The Romanians hit everything. They didn't go out of bounds. They don't have killer sets. Their bars are really weak and their beam is just average. But they have a very strong floor and their vaults are very solid, as well.

The Russians try to do all these hard tricks, which is really impressive. But then they mess up. They are taking a chance, while the Romanians just do what it takes to be competitive and no more. That's what seems to work.

The gold medalist, Andreea Raducan, is not a Svetlana Khorkina or even a Simona Amanar, one of those who has been around forever who you would expect at the Olympics to use their experience to their advantage.

But tonight, she had a lot of difficulty and she hit her sets. That is what it took.

Related information
Romania wins women's gymnastics title; U.S. fourth
Romanians sweep all-around amid vault controversy
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