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VIDEO: Kerri Strug - The Olympian who never gave up

20 years ago, Kerri Strug was at the centre of one of the most memorable moments in Olympic history.

kerri strug 1996 Olympics atlanta
19-year-old Kerri Strug won the USA Olympic gold with a broken ankle

23rd July, 1996. American gymnast Kerri Strug, nineteen at the time, was part of a squad so widely tipped for success that they were dubbed the Magnificent Seven. The Arizona-born teen, trained by legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi, performed well at every event across the board.

The stage had been set for a dramatic contest either way. Although the US team was strong, they had never won at the team gymnastics competition – which had been dominated by Russia for years.

But in a shock, the US women’s team was so strong that they took a lead over the Russians.

Only one round remained for both the US and Russia; although the US team had a convincing lead, a number of missteps from the American gymnasts could hand Russia control of the event – and the medal – as a result.

And that was exactly what happened. Each of the first four gymnasts from the USA struggled, wobbling and making unsure landings. Strug was the last up on the vault, and making the final attempt for the United States of America.

Strug mistimed her first vault, and seriously damaged her ankle as a result – and with one attempt still remaining. Visibly in pain, the teenager hobbled back to take her second attempt. That second attempt would be mathematically crucial to the United States of America winning gold.

An injured Strug implored her coach Karolyi to let her stop, asking if they “….really need(ed) this?”

The response was simple. “You need to do this, Kerri,” he said.

The gymnast, limping and wincing in pain, walked back to the vault to perform one more time – and managed to land it on both feet before almost immediately collapsing to the ground. She received medical attention – and a gold medal for her efforts in what is considered one of the most inspirational moments in Olympic history.

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