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Olympians' stories now inspire others
Saturday, 04/03/04

Reliving their dreams and inspiring the dreams of others, gymnastic golden girls Kerri Strug and Dominique Moceanu arrived in Nashville on Thursday to visit local gymnastics clubs.

There, they talked about their Olympic experiences and the chances of this year's U.S. squad, which will compete in the National Championships at the Gaylord Entertainment Center on June 2-5.

As members of the 1996 gold medal winning U.S. gymnastics team these two were more than qualified to speak on the subject.

''I have learned a lot about myself as I got older and older and I realized, 'Wow, it's been eight years, and I can still have that impact on kids,''' said the 22-year-old Moceanu, who won her first senior national competition in Nashville in 1994 and in 1996, at the age of 14, became the young-est U.S. gymnast to win an Olympic gold medal. ''I need to get a good message out there. Help them stay inspired. If I can keep them inspired that's an amazing accomplishment in itself. It's hard to keep them inspired these days. It's hard to keep kids focused on goals and dreams.''

It was focus which earned these athletes their gold medals. Few can forget Strug's final vault on an injured ankle that helped clinch the United State's first ever team Olympic gold. It is something Strug will always remember, not necessarily for its immediate reward but for the meaning behind the medal.

''For me I think my whole gymnastics career I was kind of known as the bridesmaid,'' said Strug, now 26, who in addition to her medal in Atlanta in 1996 was also a member of the 1992 bronze medal team.

''I was kind of always known as not being able to handle the pressure. Every opportunity I had to shine and win a certain competition I could never handle it. So to have this vault, this culmination of my entire career, it signified a lot more to me personally than the average American realizes, because it was finally all pressure was on me and I proved I could handle it.''

Fans can see both gymnasts in person today at the Southern Women's Show running through tomorrow in the Nashville Convention Center. Strug and Moceanu will appear on the Fashion Stage at 1 p.m.