A traditional sport that has featured in every edition of the modern Olympics since they started in 1896, Gymnastics remains one of the most exciting events that the Games have to offer. While the stakes have been raised with every passing year, the sport has witnessed a lot of transformation in the way athletes perform their routines as per the latest international rules.
But the basic outline of having world-class gymnasts qualify and entertain the worldwide audience from the Olympic venue remains intact till date. On that note, let us now take a look at 10 of the greatest gymnasts ever to have graced the Olympic Games:
#10 Kerri Strug – USA
At the age of 18, Arizona-born Kerri Strug propelled the United States women's gymnastics team to their first ever gold medal at the Olympics. But the manner in which the feat was accomplished makes the 1996 Atlanta incident one of the greatest moments in Olympic history.
Widely known as The Magnificent Seven, Kerri’s team held a comfortable lead over the Russians going into the final round of the team competition. As the Americans went for the vaults, Russia were to perform the floor exercise to decide the ultimate winner. It was then that four of the US athletes failed to land cleanly, followed by Dominique Moceanu falling on both of her attempts that fetched a below par score.
Strug was the last participant to step up for the vaults, and to stretch the lead beyond Russia’s reach, she needed to score 9.6 at least. On her first try, her landing went so wrong that she could hear a loud snap in her ankle as she fell on the platform. She had registered 9.162, and to ensure her team’s gold medal, coach Bela Karolyi required her to go again. With two torn ligaments and a third-degree lateral sprain, Kerri darted down the ramp for her second vault, which she executed cleanly despite the searing pain in her left foot. As she slumped to her knees after finishing the routine on one leg, the scores read 9.712.
For the immensely talented gymnast that she was, Kerri lost out on the opportunity to chase glory at the individual disciplines that she’d qualified for, due to the injury. Twenty years on, she stands tall among the champions to have featured in gymnastics in the Olympic Games.