Women's gymnastics injuries raise clamor over rules again Miller, Moceanu asking for special dispensation

June 18, 1996|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Dominique Moceanu is being hyped as the Mary Lou Retton/Nadia Comaneci of this year's Olympics. She won last summer's nationals at the age of 14, and turned in a solid, TC fifth-place performance in last year's world championships. Like Retton and Comaneci, she is coached by Bela Karolyi.

But Moceanu may need dispensation from U.S. gymnastics officials if she is even to compete in Atlanta.

Moceanu said yesterday that a 4-inch stress fracture in her right shin was discovered June 10, a few days after she finished third at the nationals. With Moceanu unable to compete in the Olympic trials in Boston next week, Karolyi is petitioning USA Gymnastics for a spot on the team.

The question, then, is: Will the 1996 gymnastics trials be a repeat of what transpired in Baltimore four years ago? And if so, why hold them in the first place?

Back then, Betty Aquino and Michelle Campi petitioned USA Gymnastics officials to be placed on the team despite being unable to compete because of injuries. At a special competition after the trials, Aquino performed to the satisfaction of the coaches, including her own, Karolyi, and was named to replace Kim Kelly for the last spot on the team.

Now, it may be about to happen again.

This time, it involves the two biggest names in women's gymnastics, former world champion Shannon Miller and the sport's rising superstar, Moceanu. They were among the four to back out of the individual event competition at the recent U.S. championships in Knoxville, Tenn. Both said they were injured and needed to rest.

Both have petitioned USA Gymnastics to have their scores from the all-around competition from the nationals held and placed in with the scores from the trials. Though, according to the rules, they are taking a chance to be displaced.

If the overall scores of the sixth- and seventh-place finishers in Boston are higher than what Miller and Moceanu posted at the nationals, they would lose out, but the odds of that happening are extremely low. Miller finished first and Moceanu third in the all-around competition at the nationals.

One of Miller's coaches, Peggy Littick, told the Atlanta Journal and Constitution last week that there is no choice other than to keep Miller and her injured wrist away from Boston's FleetCenter next week.

"We have three options," said Littick. "We can go with two weeks' rest and walk into the Olympic trials having done no training. We can go ahead and work out and risk further injury. Or the third option is petition onto the Olympic team."

Karolyi is not forcing the hand of the committee that will rule on the petitions by asking for a waiver that would allow Moceanu to be put on the Olympic team because of extraordinary circumstances.

"If her score is going to be passed at the trials, then the Olympic experience is going to be over for her," Karolyi told the Associated Press. "It's a risk, but it's a better risk than the other option [of the waiver's being denied]."

So, it appears that the 12 gymnasts who made it through Knoxville, as well as two alternates to replace Miller and Moceanu, will be competing for five spots, rather than seven, in Boston.

Though the selection process from 1992 was changed after the controversy in Baltimore, where athletes who were injured could be petitioned right onto the team, the message remains the same.

USA Gymnastics president Kathy Scanlan, who heads up the petition committee, said yesterday: "We don't want to see athletes compete when they're injured."

Considering the status of Miller and Moceanu, could Scanlan see a scenario in which they would be petitioned onto the team even if their scores didn't hold up in Boston?

"I can't imagine the circumstances," she said.

Women's competitors can go this route, but male gymnasts who are too injured to compete at the trials are out of luck.

Pub Date: 6/18/96

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