Children and Teenagers
• When American gymnast Dominique Moceanu was only six months old, her parents (who had been gymnasts in Romania before coming to the United States to live) tested her strength by having her grab onto a clothesline and hang on by herself. Of course, her mother was ready to catch her if she let go of the clothesline — but she never did. After witnessing this demonstration of her strength, her parents decided that Dominique could probably be a top gymnast. She proved them right by winning a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
• When the Romanian junior women’s gymnastics team flew to New York to participate in the 2000 Pontiac Women’s Gymnastics Team Championships, the flight attendants were happy to have such celebrities on board and took photographs of the team. Later, the flight attendants brought coloring books to the Romanian gymnasts, offending them deeply. The gymnasts, who were tiny 14- and 15-year-olds, said, “Hey, we’re small, but we’re not that young.”
• When Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller was a little girl, she started taking gymnastics. One day, the girls at her school took part in a parade. Little Shannon noticed some of the other girls doing back walkovers, so she decided to do them, too. Unfortunately, this was a skill she hadn’t quite mastered yet, so whenever she wanted to attempt a back walkover, her mother ran out of the audience and spotted her to make sure she wouldn’t land on her head.
• In 1971, when they were kids, gymnasts Bart Conner and Jim Hartung competed against each other. Young Bart was amazed by the size of young Jim’s ears, so he got behind him and took a photograph of the back of his head so he could show Jim’s ears to his friends. Later, the rest of Jim’s body caught up with his ears, the two continued to compete against each other in college, and the two became Olympic gold medal-winning teammates in Los Angeles.
• Even at age six, Olympic gold medalist Shannon Miller was a master at saving time. She used to wear her leotard underneath her clothing at school to save time dressing for gymnastics practice after school. This trick gave her a few more minutes of precious TV-watching time. (Her parents didn’t know she was doing this until they received her school photographs and saw the sleeves of her leotards poking out underneath the sleeves of her dress.)
• Even before Jennifer Capriati was a teenager, she showed great toughness and determination as a tennis player. During practice, her tennis-training partner hit a hard drive that smacked into her forehead. Young Jennifer lowered her head, raised her hand, wiped her eye, then got right back into the ready position — even though tears were flowing from her eyes. In 1992, Ms. Capriati won an Olympic gold medal in women’s tennis.
• While growing up in West Virginia, Mary Lou Retton learned gymnastics easily. When Mary Lou was six, she tried to teach her sister a trick she had learned at cheerleading camp: a cartwheel without hands, aka a side aerial. Her sister tried it — and broke her arm. At the time, her mother was making snickerdoodles, and Mary Lou’s sister refused to eat snickerdoodles thereafter because she associated them with her broken arm.
• When Maria Butyrskaya was 15 years old, her coach at the Central Army Club in Moscow told her that she had no talent and that she should get out of figure skating. Fortunately, Ms. Butyrskaya didn’t listen to the coach. She continued to train in figure skating, and in 1999, she became the World Champion — in fact, she was the first Russian woman ever to become World Champion in women’s figure skating.
• Even as a toddler, elite gymnast Vanessa Atler loved tumbling classes. Her mother remembers that young Vanessa was so eager to go to class that she used to put on her leotard hours before practice. (By the way, young Vanessa almost became an ice skater, but her mother enrolled her in gymnastics classes because the Atler family couldn’t afford to buy ice skates for her.)
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
The Funniest People in Sports: 250 Anecdotes — Buy