In honor of tomorrow's Election Day, why not have an election here?
This summer, the 2012 Olympic Games was one of the most successful for USA Gymnastics in its history. Gabby Douglas joined the ranks of Mary Lou Retton, Carly Patterson, and Nastia Liukin as Olympic All-Around Champion, the most coveted title in the sport. The contributions of each of these four women to the sport of gymnastics is immeasurable. Who is your favorite?
Mary Lou Retton
In the 1984 Olympics, Mary Lou was the first American gymnast to win Olympic AA gold, catapulting USA gymnastics into the spotlight and becoming "America's Sweetheart." Mary Lou was trailing Ecaterina Szabo of Romania (favored to win gold) by .15 going into the last event, but she scored two perfect 10.0's on vault, good enough to win by .05.
In a sport dominated by Russians and Eastern Europeans, Mary Lou Retton put USA gymnastics on the map, establishing an illustrious Olympic tradition and serving as a role model to several generations of gymnasts.
Watch Mary Lou's back-to-back perfect vaults here!
It would be 20 years after Mary Lou Retton that the USA would take back the Olympic AA title. Carly Patterson waged a battle with the reigning queen of gymnastics, Svetlana Khorkina of Russia, for AA gold. Carly's victory is unique in that she became the first female American gymnast to win Olympic AA gold in a non-boycotted Olympic Games. She was also the first in a string of three back-to-back American Olympic AA Champions.
Carly has a beam dismount named after her called the Patterson, a skill now performed by many, including American Aly Raisman.
Watch Carly's Olympic beam routine here, which includes the dismount named after her!
Immediately following Carly Patterson's success in 2004 came Nastia Liukin in 2008. Nastia, the daughter of Russian Olympic gold medalist Valeri Liukin (also her coach) is known for her balletic grace, her distinctively "Russian" artistry, and her clean lines. She is one of the most decorated and well-loved American gymnasts in history. Nastia came out of retirement and competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials, but due to falls on bars (her signature event), was not named to the team. Nonetheless, after her final performance at Trials, she was given a standing ovation by the 18,000 fans in the arena, and attended the London Games as the athlete representative for the Federation of International Gymnastics (FIG)
Nastia tried to get a skill named after her on beam, watch her Olympic routine here! (skill is at 1:03)
Gabby was the third American in a row to win Olympic AA gold, and the first African-American gymnast to ever hold that title. She is the second African-American gymnast (the first being Dominique Dawes in 1996) to be part of a gold medal-winning women's gymnastics team at the Olympic games. Gabby burst onto the Elite scene virtually unknown. She peaked at just the right time, beating Jordyn Wieber (reigning World Champion) to win the Olympic Trials. Gabby went on to upset Viktoria Komova of Russia in Olympic AA finals to win the gold. Gabby is known for her huge smile and high flying releases on bars.
Watch Gabby's bar routine from Olympic Trials here and see why she is called "the Flying Squirrel!"
Thanks for voting!
Peace, love, and gymnastics,
Spectrum Gymnastics Academy
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About the Author
Coach Sarah is a former Rhode Island College gymnast, NCGA National qualifier, All-American, current gymnastics coach and judge, and contributor for the gymnastics news source, The Gymternet. Find out what's going on at Spectrum and learn more about the incredible sport of gymnastics!