Memorable Moments of the Quad: 1993-1996

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As we get closer to the Rio Olympics, TCG will look back at the previous quad’s most memorable moments. Now we’re taking a look at the 1993-96 quad.  Unprecedented titles were won, legendary careers continued, and the gym world took on a new look after the breakup of the Soviet Union (and, of course, lots of crushed velvet leotards!)

New American Champions The United States of America really took off to a new level after the previous quad brought success to a program that was always almost there, but not quite.  New star Shannon Miller won back-to-back World all-around titles, as well as titles on bars, beam, and floor.  Unfortunately hampered with injuries in 1995, she still finished in the top ten.

In addition to Shannon’s great success, her teammates also became popular international stars.  Dominique Dawes won every single gold medal at the 1994 US Nationals, eventually winning a total of fourteen National titles.  She also won several individual World medals.  The other Dominique (Moceanu) became the youngest ever National champion in 1995 and also won an individual World medal that year.

As a team, the Americans witnessed unprecedented success.  After a World silver (1991) and Olympic bronze (1992), the team momentum was looking great heading into the Team Worlds in 1994.  But two-time World champion Shannon Miller bowed out after compulsories, and the nervous team struggled through qualifications.  Led by veterans Dawes and Kerri Strug, the team prevailed with another silver medal.  An injury depleted team still won the bronze at Worlds in 1995, and expectations were high for the Atlanta Olympics.

With Dawes, Amanda Borden, and Amy Chow back in action in 1996, they joined Miller, Moceanu, Strug and Jaycie Phelps as the much heralded Magnificent Seven.  In an almost dreamlike sequence, the team barely trailed the Russians after compulsories.  Starting on bars, the team hit hit hit every performance.  Going into vault, the gold was all but a lock….but they had to make it through the final rotation.  After four steady vaults, Moceanu shockingly sat on both her vaults, setting up her teammate Strug.  Strug’s performance, consisting of a fall, an injury, grit, and a great vault on a bad leg, catapulted her as an Olympic legend and her teammates to the top of the podium for the first time in history.  At that same Olympics, Chow and Dawes won individual medals, and Miller was the first American to become Olympic champion on the balance beam.

An incredibly rich and diverse time for American gymnastics, there are many wonderful young women who contributed to the success of this time period and continue to be an inspiration today!  Kerri reflects on her iconic moment–


The Beautiful Journey of Lilia Podkopayeva (Disclaimer- Podkopayeva is my number one, so I will try to keep the gushing to a minimum!)  At the start of this quad, there were enough returners from the Barcelona Olympics to stay in the limelight (Miller, Milosovici, Gogean, Galieva, Chusovitina, Dawes, Strug, Lysenko, etc. etc.), yet there was the new crop of gymnasts who were ready to prove themselves.  Since the age minimum was 15, many new seniors emerged in 1993 and 1994, one of whom was the upstart from Ukraine, Lilia Podkopayeva.  Trained under the old Soviet system, Lilia was counted on to create a new name for an independent Ukraine.

Her senior debut in 1993 wasn’t overly impressive.  While crowds and judges took note of her highly expressive floor and impeccable toe point, she failed to make all-around finals at Worlds due to the two-per-country rule, and she struggled on vault in event finals to finish 8th.  Still, she had some good international showings that year, including second in the all-around at the European Cup.

The next year brought a more mature and confident Lilia, who started to make a name for herself amongst the strong American, Russian, Romanian, Chinese, and Belarussian competition.  In 1994, she won a silver on beam at Worlds and won vault at the DTB Cup and Goodwill Games.  But it was at the European Championships where she served noticed—after a fifth place finish in the all-around, a bronze on vault and a silver on beam, Lilia put in the performance of the night and won gold on floor with a massive 9.937 over gymnasts like Milosovici, Gogean, Khorkina, Kochetkova, and Piskoun.

Despite success and medals, Lilia seemed to make minor (or major) mistakes that kept her from challenging further for the all-around title.  At the World Championships in 1995, everyone knew she was a strong competitor, but more attention was placed on the Romanians and Russians, as well as Chinese star Mo Huilan.  However, Lilia finally prevailed as the all-around winner while also collecting a share of the gold on vault, a share of the silver on bars, and another World silver on beam.

Going into 1996, Lilia’s confidence and polish seemed to sky-rocket—despite cracking and breaking her ribs on the beam early in the year, she won the European all-around title and was the favorite going into the Atlanta Olympics.  With perfect toe-point, a signature vault, a strong bars set (despite that pesky leg separation on her Geinger), and a polished beam set, Lilia concluded the all-around competition with a crowd pleasing floor that featured her double front with a half twist, a skill that is still almost unheard of in today’s gymnastics.

Dedicating her performance to her recently deceased grandmother, Lilia also won silver on beam and prevailed once again on floor (making her the last all-around Olympic champion to win gold in the event finals).  Her personality, joy while performing, and distinct floor routines made her a crowd favorite, as well as a dear friend amongst many of her competitors.  Injuries kept her from continuing into the next quad, but we have many treasured moments to savor from Lilia!

Lilia’s first European title, where she established herself as a true star and contender—


Mighty Mo While Lilia was one of the main title winners of this quad, many highly regard Mo Huilan from China as another star from this era, despite a less impressive medal count.  Emerging in 1994 at 4’4’’ with a tremendous new skill on uneven bars (a Gaylord salto, known as the Mo salto in the women’s code), Huilan quickly gained a lot of fans for her daring skills and crowd-pleasing routines (the typewriter floor routine, anyone?)  Though she walked away from that Worlds with no individual medals and two seventh place finishes (in the all-around and floor), everyone knew she was one to watch.

Throughout 1994, Huilan continued to show great promise, albeit with some stumbles.  That year, she won five gold medals at the Asian Games, yet settled for the bronze in the all-around.  By 1995, she grew several inches, which gave her greater power and even more refined routines.  After leading her team to their best-ever finish at Worlds (second to the Romanians), Huilan was the odds on favorite to win the all-around after posting a huge 39.499 in team finals (a score that would have won in all-around finals by two tenths.)  But after a clean beam set in the first rotation, she sat down her dismount.  After a sixth place finish, she shared silver on bars, and she earned a 9.900 and the gold on beam in event finals, becoming the first Chinese World Champion on beam.

Her highs pointed to her greatness, but the lows carried frustrating effects.  She was certainly a favorite for several medals and titles at the Atlanta Olympics, but a mistake on bars in compulsories left her out of the event finals.  The Chinese team failed to make the last session for team finals and ultimately finished fourth.  Huilan had an error on beam in team optionals, leaving her out of that event final as well.  In the all-around, she was tied for the lead after three rotations and last to perform on floor, but a step out of bounds left her off the podium.  Come event finals, she had another shaky routine on floor that did not medal, but her strong double twisting Yurchenko brought her a silver on vault, making her the first Chinese women to win an Olympic medal on that event.

In the end, Huilan retired in 1997 after a subpar Worlds with one Olympic medal and two individual World medals (four total).  But her influence and impact on the sport goes above and beyond her medal count among a quad of legends.

One of her many worthwhile routines- her floor at the Team Worlds in 1994, where she scored a 9.900 (and 39.212 total)-


The Break-up of the Soviet Union This quad saw old stars competing under new flags after the Soviet Union dissolved.  Independent countries such as Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, and Uzbekistan creeped onto the podium alongside Russia.  Since the Round Lake training center was in Russia, the other republics needed to find a way to support their gymnasts’ training.  Initially, many countries saw success, but in the decades since, Russia remains the main threat in the competitive world.

But the break-up of the Soviet Union allowed for many stars to thrive who otherwise may have struggled to make a World or Olympic team had the USSR stayed intact due to their immense depth.  Highlights from non-Russians during this era include: Tatiana Lysenko UKR: World All-Around bronze medalist (1993).  Olympian (1992). Elena Piskoun BLR: World Vault (1993) and Uneven Bars (1996) Champion.  Olympian (1996). Lilia Podkopayeva UKR: World (1995), European and Olympic (1996) Champion.  Three Olympic medals (two gold), five World medals (three gold), eight European medals (four gold). Svetlana Boguinskaya BLR: Three time Olympian, making all-around and vault finals at each Olympics.  Silver medalist in the all-around at American Cup and Europeans (1996). Lyubov Sheremeta UKR: World Floor bronze medalist (1996).  Olympian (1996). Ludmilla Prince LAT: World Balance Beam finalist (1993).  Olympian (1996). Oksana Chusovitina UZB (later Germany, now UZB again): World Vault bronze medalist (1993).  Olympian (1992, 1996…..and beyond). Roza Galieva UZB (later Russia): Worlds All-Around sixth place (1993).  Olympian (1992, 1996).

Despite individual stars, most countries struggled to put fully competitive teams together.  Along with the rise of USA and China, most former republics were unable to keep pace.


**More Medals for Milo ** At the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, Romanian Lavinia Milosovici established herself as the new leader for the legendary program.  Though 1993 wasn’t her best year, she did walk away with the World title on balance beam, giving her an Olympic and/or World title on every individual event.

The prize she was really fighting for, though, was an all-around title.  Her consistency always challenged, and aside from 1993 (when she finished eighth), Milo was always on the podium- following her bronze in 1992, she won silver in 1994, and bronze again in both 1995 and 1996 (becoming the first to win back-to-back Olympic all-around medals since Nadia).  Though she retired without the major World or Olympic all-around victory, she continued to challenge the field and lead her team to unprecedented success (including back-to-back World team titles).

Perhaps her best competition was at the Team Worlds in 1994, where Milo posted the highest total in the all-around during team finals- a whopping 39.500.  All in all, she retired with six Olympic medals (two gold), twelve Worlds medals (five gold), and seven European medals (four gold).

As the reigning Olympic champion on floor, she shared the European title with the future Olympic champion (Podkopayeva) in 1996 with a 9.862:


A Multitude of Worlds This quad witnessed an interesting phenomenon in the World Championships schedule.  For many years, there were full Worlds (team, all-around, and event finals) in the years following and preceding an Olympics.  (This is why the World Cups—held on those ‘off years’—were regarded as so important).  But in 1993, with the break-up of the Soviet Union, the FIG recognized that putting together full teams could be very difficult.  So, those Worlds in Birmingham were individual only—something we are very accustomed to today.  Then, in early 1994, Brisbane hosted another individual Worlds (both all-arounds won by American Shannon Miller).  Later that same year, Dortmund hosted a team only Worlds (won by Romania).  In Sabae in 1995, we once again returned to one all-encompassing Worlds.  Then, in 1996, the FIG hosted its second ever event finals only Worlds in San Juan.  So, there were five World Championship competitions leading up to the Atlanta Olympics!  The next two quads saw the FIG fiddling with the system again, but since 2005, the schedule has been set in the manner we see today.


**Liu Xuan’s One-Armed Giant and Release ** In 1994, Liu Xuan and the Chinese team showed up for a tri-meet in the US with Belarus.  Most of her teammates were throwing the new cool release skill—the Mo salto—but Liu Xuan upped the ante with a giant and Geinger release on one arm!  While she performed it successfully (albeit sporadically) over the next year, she took it out of her repertoire for the Olympics, since it was clear the judges were not going to give her any extra credit (the skills were valued quite low, in an attempt to prevent other gymnasts from copying the trend).  The strategy by the FIG worked, as one-armed skills on uneven bars remain an untapped area of development.

Liu Xuan’s first time performing the skills, which she hit, followed unfortunately with a fall:


**The End of an Era: Compulsories ** Finally, an important part of gymnastics history concluded with this quad.  Compulsories were prescribed routines that showcased a mastery over the basic skills.  No improvising was allowed, and steadiness in this area was imperative in order to be competitive.  In fact, US Nationals would weigh compulsories as much as 70% when determining a national champion or choosing an Olympic or World team!  Because the compulsory score was factored into all-around and event finals qualifications, gymnasts needed to show proficiency in both compulsory and optional routines.

However, gymnasts and countries that were up-and-coming often struggled with compulsories, so in an attempt to level the playing field, the FIG decided to remove compulsories from competition after the 1996 Olympics.  While we do see much more disparity in gymnastics, some bemoan the loss of basics and fundamental approaches to the sport.  But few miss the hours long coverage of the same routines over and over!

With a 9.737, Shannon Miller scored the highest on compulsory beam in 1996- fitting for the eventual Olympic Champion!


Four years is a lot to cover!!  Add your own significant memory and moment from this quad, and watch for the next piece covering the 1989-1992 era as we get closer and closer to Rio!  Tweet me @SuperGymFan with your suggestions!! #MemorableMoments


Memorable moments of the 1997-2000

Memorable moments of the 2001-2004

Memorable moments of the 2005-2008

Memorable moments of the 2009-2012

Article by: Kristen Ras

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