Back in spotlight, Strug stands second in World Team Trials GYMNASTICS

October 16, 1994|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Writer

RICHMOND, Va. -- Gymnast Kerri Strug's road to recovery could lead to the Team World Championships next month in Germany.

Strug, who missed the nationals in late August because of a strained back, was second behind Dominique Dawes of Gaithersburg in the all-around standings of the World Team Trials last night after the compulsory round.

Dawes had a 46.620 score and Strug was at 46.140 entering the optional round today at the Richmond Coliseum. Amanda Borden, from Cincinnati, was third with 45.780.

Seven of the 14 gymnasts competing will represent the United States next month at the Team World Championships in Germany.

"I was a little nervous at first, but I'm glad I made it through it," said the 4-foot-9, 85-pound Strug, from Tucson, Ariz. "My back hurt a little bit, but I didn't even think about it once the competition began."

Strug, 16, hurt her back Aug. 8 by falling from the uneven bars at the U.S. Classic in Palm Springs, Calif., after completing a handstand, but missing the low bar on an overshoot midway through her routine.

Strug suffered torn muscles and fiber in her back.

"It was one of those freak things," said Strug. "It's a skill I never had any problems with before. But you can't let something like that affect you."

If it was going to affect Strug, it was going to happen early last night. Her first event was the uneven bars. She scored a 9.50, the fourth-best mark in event last night. And she never flinched or hesitated during her program.

Strug then went on to draw the loudest applause of the night with a 9.90 score in the floor exercise. She also had the highest score, 9.80, in the vault.

"I was a little upset that it [uneven bars] was my first event, but I was really glad when it was over," said Strug, a bronze medalist in the 1992 Summer Olympics.

"My back has come a long way since August," she said. "My only real disadvantage is that I haven't been able to train and prepare as long as everyone else. The thing I'll have to rely on is experience and if that gets me through, I can build for the World Team Championships."

Muriel Grossfeld, Strug's coach, was concerned about her going into the meet.

"Kerri is one of the most gifted athletes in the world," said Grossfeld. "But she tends to be a bit on the pessimistic side, like she doesn't have confidence in herself. If she ever really started believing, we could see a great gymnast."

Dawes, 17, continued the dominating form that earned her the best all-around and four individual titles at the national championships seven weeks ago.

She was nearly flawless on the balance beam with a score of 9.675, which tied her for first place in the event with Borden.

She was equally impressive on the vault (9.675) and uneven bars (9.70) and was exceptional on the floor exercise, earning a 9.80 mark in her forte.

"I had difficulty in each event, especially the vault and the bars," said Dawes. "I know I can improve on those. I was happy with my beam and dance-floor routines."

While Dawes was dominating, Amy Chow, from San Jose, Calif., showed why she is one of the nation's up-and-coming stars. Chow, 16, was fifth in the all-around with a score of 45.57.

Strug was not the only gymnast on the comeback trail in the meet. Larissa Fontaine, who had four bone chips removed from her right elbow in July, was in sixth place with a score of 44.970.

Neither Strug nor Fontaine, from Deerfield, Ill., had competed since their injuries.

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