Gymnast Dimas tests his mettle

January 22, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

If it weren't so cold here this weekend, tomorrow's Reese's World Gymnastics Cup would be a good place for Trent Dimas to get his feet wet in the world of gymnastics.

Again.

Dimas, who won the lone men's gold medal for the United States in Olympic gymnastics competition in 1992, took last year off to explore some business opportunities and to get away from the sport.

But this weekend's competition gives Dimas a chance to find out if there's a place for him in gymnastics, while discovering if he really wants to come back.

"I've been considering coming back and this is a good testing ground to see where I am. I haven't seen some of these guys [competitors] for so long and it's good to see them," said Dimas.

Dimas, 23, became the first American, male or female, to win a gold medal in gymnastics in a non-boycotted Olympics in 60 years when he beat Grigori Misutin of the Unified Team and Andreas Wecker of Germany in the horizontal, or high, bar in Barcelona.

The high bar win -- the first by an American since 1932 -- came out of the blue, since Dimas had won only national competitions and a meet with the Romanians.

"Once I met the Olympic team, my established goals were met. Winning the gold medal was a shock to me," said Dimas.

That feat alone should have been enough to propel the personable Dimas, a native of Albuquerque, N.M., into America's living rooms as a commercial spokesman, but the recession and the overwhelming shadow cast by the American men's basketball team, the first group of NBA players to participate in the Games, combined to dry up his opportunities.

"I was talking to a diver friend of mine who won a gold medal and he said, 'I worked my butt off and the media suggested that if I won a gold medal there would be all these endorsements there.' But at the end of that rainbow, there was nothing," said Dimas.

There also were no companies lined up to provide sponsorship of his training and competition, a decided drawback in gymnastic,s which is time- and dollar-intensive.

For a time, Dimas said he didn't mind missing the rigors and routine of daily training, and he took the last year off to give motivational speeches, make appearances and coach at Arizona State, all while exploring television opportunities.

Eventually, however, the gym's lure pulled him back for another run, which Dimas hopes will culminate in a berth on the American Olympic team for the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Dimas is already advising the city's Olympic organizing committee, but would love to be a competitor.

For this weekend, Dimas' energies are focused at beating the impressive field of competitors, which includes two-time world all-around champion Dmitri Bilozerchev of Russia, Germany's Sylvio Kroll, a 1988 Olympic silver medalist, and Wecker, who won silver medals in the pommel horse and rings at last year's world championships.

Tomorrow's meet will bring as much as $2,000 to the winner of each of five men's events, but for Dimas, the money would be important, but secondary.

"It's more than money. It's going to be for pride and a sense of where I am," said Dimas.

FACTS AND FIGURES

What: Reese's World Gymnastics Cup

Site: Baltimore Arena

When: Tomorrow, 1 p.m.

Competitors: Confirmed participants include Dominique Dawes, Shannon Miller, Betty Okino, Kim Zmeskal and Trent Dimas of the United States and 1988 Olympic gold medalist Dmitri Bilozerchev of Russia.

Format: Each gymnast will compete in five events for men (floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, parallel bars and horizontal bar) and three for women (uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise) and in the all-around. Prize money ranges from $150 to $2,000 at each apparatus and for all-around competition.

Scoring: Any routine can receive a maximum of 100 points, with a maximum of 30 points in three separate categories, difficulty/combinations, execution and exercise presentations with the possibility of 10 bonus points.

Ticket information: Many available. Prices are $14.50 and $22.50 ($45 seats are sold out). They are available through TicketMaster outlets by phone at (410) 481-SEAT or (800) 551-SEAT or at the Arena box office. For more information, call (800) 536-5817.

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